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Naughty And Niche

Cable's adult programmers, faced with increasing competition from Internet content, are working with operators to better target the needs of specific demographics.

Companies such as Hustler TV say that operators who divide their adult pay-per-view offerings into categories — including multicultural/international, gay and niche segments such as amateur and anime — have seen VOD usage climb by more than 30%.

Colorado-based New Frontier Media has taken the strategy further, offering operators an on-demand package of short-form adult content that better represents how consumers typically watch adult programming, the company believes.

Adult-network executives agree that convenience and customization are key in the space.

“I think [segmentation] makes it very easy to find what you're looking for,” said Spice Digital Networks vice president of programming and acquisitions Mike Spierer. “When someone can go and find the content and not have to go through 15 different pages to see what they want, it makes it easier for them to purchase.”

That kind of variety and ease continue to draw online users to more than 4 million adult-oriented Internet Web sites offering pictures and video.

While VOD provides viewers with some level of convenience, adult titles are often grouped under brand names such as Hustler TV, Spice TV or TEN, as opposed to by genre.

Hustler TV has been working with operators over the past six months to provide sub-categories for its on-demand movies, said its president, Michael Klein. The company offers as many as 10 different categories for operators to choose from with such titles as “Barely Legal,” “Urban Hustlaz,” “Lusty Latinas” and “Big Boobs and Booty.”

Klein said that operators offering sub-categories experience a 33% improvement in usage, but would not break down specific figures. The network's multicultural and international offerings — including interracial programming and in-language content from France and other countries — have been big hits for the company, along with titles produced by amateurs, he added.

“You have a lot of viewers who say they have a certain niche that they want to see,” he said. “By putting it into a subcategory, you make it easier for them to find it.”

The more — and more diverse — the subcategories the better, according to executives.

The Playboy Entertainment Group-owned Spice brand offers an array of categories that include ultra niche genres like X-rated anime films, couples-oriented fare and content featuring actors with tattoos and body piercings.

Spice also offers a content subcategory targeted to gay viewers, which executives said is growing in popularity. Several undisclosed operators have picked up Hustler TV's gay-themed HIS on-demand service, which launched this past March — a far cry from several years ago, when another Hustler-distributed, gay-targeted network was shunned by operators.

“In the past, there's been a reluctance to launch a gay adult service, but now people recognize that there's not much of an issue and no one is storming the cable system because of it,” he said. “Operators are recognizing that there's a very dedicated audience and it's a good revenue source — the buying power of the gay demographic is extremely high.”

Overall, Spice's Spierer said, “the landscape has changed dramatically,” and audiences expect more diversity from adult VOD offerings.

“The top categories are amateurs and interracial — black, Latina and Asian,” he said, “and what we've tried to do is stay ahead of the curve and make sure we offer content for the consumer that doesn't want to the see the same thing all the time.”

New Frontier is challenging VOD's current movie-heavy model with its recent launch of Vavoom. The new service offers content by the scene, similar to what's on offer at popular adult Web sites such as XTube and YouPorn. Consumers will have access to 80 to 100 individual scenes approximately 10 to 15 minutes in length refreshed each month for $3.99, according to New Frontier president Ken Boenish. Clips will be categorized under 10 to 20 genres within the adult category.

In addition, the service can be purchased on a subscription basis for a suggested price of $19.95. Boenish said several MSOs are “warming up to” Vavoom, but the network has yet to reach distribution deals.

Boenish said providing various price points and differentiated content is the only way operators and program provider will be able to keep the Web from siphoning off viewers of adult content.

“It's giving people a better value, but it's also more in line with how people actually consume the product,” he said. “Nobody on the Internet sits and watches a full-length feature adult movie, but rather they watch a scene.”