Brave New Frontier

Bob Preston
Conventional wisdom says that free content on tube sites takes money out of producers’ pockets — so is live content the answer?

Maybe, maybe not, but more and more companies are looking to live content to liven up tired members areas, draw new fans and expand their brand presence in a marketplace that is increasingly competitive and an economy that’s increasingly grim.

In April, Evil Angel chieftain John Stagliano shot a full, live scene for members of his paysite Buttman.com that starred Dana DeArmond and Adrianna Nicole. Evil Angel’s Karen Stagliano told XBIZ that her husband had been itching to get more involved with his signature website. Besides a full revamp, adding live content was another way John got more involved while also getting the fans more involved.

“We Twitter’ed about [the live show] all day long,” Karen Stagliano said, referring to the popular microblogging website, Twitter. “The fans really felt more in touch with a live show.”

Karen added that live shows have been enormously popular with fans, who flocked to the live performance and sent numerous inquiries to Evil Angel to see if they would be able to comment on the action. In addition, Karen said that live shows bear an aura of spontaneity that no gonzo DVD can reproduce.

“If a person wants to see this kind of action, they have to come right away,” she said. “And when they watch, they know it’s really happening. They know we can’t edit around anything.”

That special quality just might make live content a silver bullet against the threat of free content. Transsexual adult star Buck Angel told XBIZ that there’s no beating the control that free content affords a performer.

“There’s no way anyone can download it,” he said of a live performance. “They can only see me when I go on.”

Angel added that live shows have also helped bolster conversions and retention for the members area at BuckAngel.com. Fans can check out Angel on a live show to determine if they like what they see. Besides the occasional live show on his own site, Angel has a more regular gig with VideoSecrets.com.

But Angel goes even further with the fan appreciation. He invites subscribers to his paysite to email him if they want a live show, and he’ll accommodate.

“It’s all about personal attention,” he said. “You don’t want your users to feel like they’re getting ripped off. My site costs $29.95 a month, and that’s not cheap. In this day and age, you’ve got to take care of your fans.”

But despite live content’s appeal, it might not be the answer to all of adult’s problems. Karen Stagliano said that at best, it’s a temporary solution to a long-term problem.

On top of that, it’s also a challenge to produce live content. X2K Consulting and Media Services Owner Stephen Bugbee told XBIZ that most companies don’t have the patience or the resources to produce live content on a regular basis.

“When it comes to live content, you need two things: technology and talent,” he said. “The first is easier to get, but managing talent all over the world is tough.”

Bugbee also cited the “flakiness” of live-cam models who perform from their own webcams as another strike against live content.

So what’s the answer? According to Bugbee, white-labeling, where an adult producer or webmaster adds their own logo to another company’s live cam technology. Bugbee added that such solutions can help an adult performer or studio expand its brand presence, but with a caveat.

“Live shows work really well for talent [to expand their brand appeal],” he said. “But if you’re a studio, you need to do really special shows.” Bugbee praised VideoSecrets’ live shows with Vivid models.

Video-on-demand site HotMovies.com joined forces with Wildlife Productions and Marc Bruder’s CED to brings its viewers a live video feed from the making of “Screw My Wife, Please! 69.”

Bobby Rinaldi has directed the series since its inception in which couples live out their sexual fantasies. The premise of the series is wives having their husbands cuckolded while professional male performers service them.

“There is so much of the same adult programming choices that we believe consumers are searching for some event to entrust their loyalty,” Bruder told XBIZ. “Subscribers to adult streaming websites and traditional broadcast platforms are desensitized with every prerecorded adult program in the marketplace from ‘Deep Throat’ to ‘Pirates.’

“The next step in satisfying the viewer’s desires is to have everyone visit an actual adult movie being made with no off-limits areas. That can’t be done, but a live shoot might be the next best experience, with call in and email interaction from fans to cast and crew — a real production day showcasing actual sex happening in the present with behind-the-scenes activities while behind-the-scenes activities are actually going on.”

Adult producers Naughty America have devoted no less than five domains to live shows, including LiveNaughtyTeacher.com, LiveNaughtyMILF.com, LiveGymCam.com, LiveNaughtySecretary.com and LiveNaughtyStudent.com.

Naughty America Executive Producer Laura said that although live content brings in a healthy revenue stream for the company, it’s not a full-fledged answer to the problem of free content.

“Live is a new enough product here at Naughty America that hasn’t affected our branding much,” she said. “Obviously as it grows, it’ll play a larger role.”

On that note, several industry members noted that free content isn’t always a problem. Naughty America’s Laura called it an effective marketing tool, and Angel said that he posts short clips of himself to video-sharing site XTube.com.

But there’s always a next step. What will live content look like in the future? If Stephen Bugbee has anything to say about it, it’ll look a lot better.

“Any kind of interactivity is always good,” Bugbee said. “What I want now is quality.” Bugbee said that in order for live content to really become a major player, technology will have to advance to the point where adult producers can deliver high-definition live content over standard Internet connections.

But despite everything else, Buck Angel maintained that the best way to get and keep fans is to be like him — different.

“If you’re offering something unique, the fans will find you,” he said. “But that’s the trick. You’ve got to think of something that people will be willing to pay for.”