Vivid's Asher: Adult Category Holds Its Own

The adult video-on-demand business suffered years of revenue declines due to the proliferation of free porn on the Internet. Bill Asher, co-chairman of Vivid Entertainment, which distributes hard-core adult content through linear and on-demand cable services, says the trend is reversing and viewers are returning to traditional TV for adult entertainment. He spoke about the genre with Multichannel News programming editor R. Thomas Umstead.

MCN: How would you categorize the adult on-demand business today?

Bill Asher: For a while, people were panicking that the sky was falling with regard to adult content on TV because you have free porn on the Internet — it’s hard not to find it. The numbers were coming down on the TV side. But all of the sudden they leveled off over the past couple of years. There are a lot of people who want to get free porn, and I get it, but if you make unique and good, quality content, you don’t have to give it away free on the Internet.

MCN: So basically, people are tiring of the free and often poor-quality porn on the Web and are paying for more high quality content through on-demand?

BA: Yes. It’s almost like there’s a resurgence of adult content on television. It sounds kind of funny, but now it’s more high-end porn, if you will. There are two kinds of consumers and two kinds of marketplaces: the free stuff on the Internet, where it’s used to generate traffic to sell to other sites, and there is quality adult content. The number of people who watch tons and tons of stuff on the Internet has leveled off. I think people are coming back to more traditional TV viewing.

MCN: From a business standpoint, is Vivid now seeing revenue increases in its adult content offerings?

BA: We are about where we were five years ago, so the slide has stopped. I don’t think we’ll ever get back to where we were 10 years ago, but I think this is the floor and we’re bouncing back. Now, we have to come up with something more creative to keep the momentum going, whether it’s swingers or something else. I think it’s a pretty lucrative market, and we’re comfortable where we are.

MCN:Are viewers coming back to television for adult programming skewing younger or older?

BA: First, there are the older and wealthier viewers who are traditional TV viewers that continue to view adult [content] on television. But then there’s a general audience who really enjoy adult. Our generation acquitted that with the dirty old guy in the raincoat. What you’re seeing now are young people who enjoy adult content openly, and they talk about it amongst each other — it’s just a different attitude around adult. They look at it as part of their sex life. They will pay for exactly what they want to watch.

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.