DirecTV, Playboy Spice Up Adult PPV

Hoping to spur sluggish adult pay-per-view buys, DirecTV Inc. will offer subscribers the chance to purchase five Playboy-owned PPV services on an a la carte basis, or to receive the group for one set price.

Last year, the direct-broadcast satellite provider began offering subscribers access to Playboy TV, The Hot Zone, Spice Platinum, The Hot Network and A Taste of Spice for three hours at $12.99. The PPV package was created to help the company build value for its adult offerings and encourage sampling of several Playboy-owned services, DirecTV senior vice president of programming acquisitions Michael Thornton said.

Heated competition

Thornton would not reveal specific buy-rate or revenue figures for the PPV package experiment, but said the bundle has helped DirecTV effectively compete with the explosion of non-pay TV adult content.

Although the category earned $609 million in 2002, according to Showtime Event Television's annual category study — second only to PPV movies — both Playboy and DirecTV executives said the category's continued growth is threatened by the proliferation of adult content on the Internet and DVDs.

"I think the space has become much more competitive," Thornton said. "People are able to get this product through the Internet, so we've had to think of ideas like this block to keep things at the level that they've been at."

More choice

While the PPV package has driven buys, Playboy Networks Worldwide president Jim English said consumer choice in content and pricing was somewhat limited under the DirecTV plan — only Playboy TV could be purchased separately. As a result, DirecTV on May 1 began offering each of the five networks on an a la carte basis, along with the combination package. The more explicit Spice Platinum, Hot Network and Hot Zone are now priced at $9.99 each for a 90-minute block, while the heavier-edited Playboy TV retails at $7.99 for a four-hour block, Thornton said.

The compilation channel A Taste Of Spice costs $4.95 for a 55-minute block, or $6.99 for three hours.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.