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Executive Seat: Industry Leader

Stephen Yagielowicz
Among the most respected companies in adult entertainment, Pink Visual is an acknowledged industry leader, taking a vital role in a number of issues, including efforts to combat content piracy, protect performers and spearhead technological development.

Allison Vivas, a vivacious young lady with a long track record of excellence, serves as the company’s president and public face. XBIZ caught up with her to try and learn what it takes to keep the powerhouse known as Pink Visual on top and how she faces the day-to-day challenges of running such a large and diverse organization.

Pink Visual is on the forefront of adult industry antipiracy efforts, including the recent Content Protection Retreat (CPR), held in Tucson, Ariz., at which it made efforts to ensure that a diverse range of content producers were represented, including amateur and solo site operators that lack the financial resources of larger production companies and thus at more of a disadvantage against pirates. In other endeavors, the adult industry has been successful in fighting commercial child pornography through ASACP, of which Pink Visual is a supporter; while ad hoc groups have rallied to successfully fight Acacia and the FSC still fights against 2257, showing that at times, we can indeed “herd cats.”

The company’s antipiracy efforts were further extended recently when Pink Visual donated the website design and URL for FSCAPAP.com, the new information website for the Free Speech Coalition’s Anti-Piracy Action Program (APAP), providing a great example of industry support and of how companies can help the industry’s trade groups through noncash contributions-in-kind or other creative means.

XBIZ: How important is it to have a cohesive adult industry effort to combat piracy? Is there enough common ground among the stakeholders to warrant a level of cooperation that is rarely seen in adult and will this effort ultimately be successful?

Allison Vivas: A cohesive adult industry effort, wherein the majority of the currently active studios participate in efforts to combat piracy is a must in my opinion. Adult companies do not have as many alternate modes of monetizing their products as the mainstream entertainment world has, with brand licensing, product placement, or physical goods. At their core, our products are adult video works, and we need to curb piracy amongst actively producing studios in order to bring back consumer value to adult content. Eventually, pirate site end-users will be sick of seeing the same old productions freely distributed by companies who may no longer care about their content and instead find it more convenient, accessible and private to pay for the newest and more quality experiences. Based off of how quickly and strongly the movement has been able to start, I believe the effort will ultimately be successful.

XBIZ: The APAP effort is notable in part due to its use of technology and in part due to its holistic outreach to both rights holders and content publishers, including tube sites — offering a “carrot or stick” approach that incentives cooperation and serves as a simple alternative to antipiracy efforts that rely solely on legal maneuvering — a solution that may prove superior, especially considering the far-off jurisdictions of many tube sites. While no one wants to be seen as “rewarding” piracy, will its elimination depend on the cooperation of the infringers — including their participation in revenue sharing or other monetization schemes, which in practical terms may be less expensive and more productive than litigation?

Vivas: First, I don’t believe there is such thing as truly eliminating piracy. There will always be some infringement taking place. Piracy can be mitigated, however, and some of the key components of accomplishing that include educating User Generated Content Site operators on the inherent legal risks to their business model, and getting them to minimize their risk by filtering for copyrighted content upon upload. That change in business practice on their part can be voluntary, or it can happen the hard way through the courts. While we’d love to see UGC site operators change their practices voluntarily, there’s a growing number of studios that have demonstrated their willingness to take legal action in order to force the issue, when and where necessary.

XBIZ: With tube sites controlling such a large chunk of the traffic pie, how will their inclusion in antipiracy programs affect the already uncertain affiliate landscape?

Vivas:There are too many ‘what ifs’ to accurately predict the future should more and more tube site operators opt to prevent infringement through content filtering and other methods. I could imagine that content owners may modify their distribution and billing systems to work better with this type of traffic; tube operators or VOD aggregators could work with content owners to offer more seamless points of purchase; the tube consumer may adjust just fine to paying something for adult content; tube sites could offer a whole affiliate supported advertising system for a more creative approach to marketing, or affiliate programs could rely on affiliates for getting branding messages out and not just creating sales. There are many possibilities for how this will play out, but I think that any of those scenarios are an improvement on the status quo that’s staring us in the face, currently. The fight for industry members. HIV scares have repeatedly hit the adult entertainment industry; and while production companies have always taken a variety of steps to ensure performer safety, it seems that this latest scare resulted in a fast and far-reaching production moratorium on the part of many companies, including Pink Visual, highlighting the industry’s proactive response.

XBIZ: How has Pink Visual approached the issue of performer safety and is there anything that can be done about these periodic outbreaks?

Vivas: We care tremendously about our performers and their safety, and at the same time, we understand the inherent risks of certain jobs. Just as there’s no such thing as a completely safe environment in which to perform as a Hollywood stuntman, there’s no way to completely eliminate the risks of performing sex acts in an adult production. The fast reaction from within the industry to the most recent positive test demonstrates that the leading production studios consider the impact of a production delay on their bottom line to be a minimal concern when weighed against the risk, however slight, that performers who have every reason believe at the time that they are in the clear could be wrong, and spread HIV by continuing to work. I am one who values education highly, and in the case of how to best minimize outbreaks, I believe first in education over policy. It seems extremely important to educate the performers about the need for them to take protective measures in their personal lives, and in the event that they choose to perform outside of the L.A. area with someone who may not have such consistent testing. We’ve consistently seen the outbreaks occur from unprotected sex with someone who is not included in the AIM testing protocols, and performers should understand not just their personal risks, but that their own poor decisions can put their colleagues at risk, as well.

XBIZ: What do these disruptions mean for PV’s production schedule and what can you do as President to limit financial losses from these periodic but unforeseen events?

Vivas: Fortunately, we have a large production backlog so we can still do updates to our sites and when we pick production back up we can double up the capacity so for us there will be no real financial loss.

XBIZ: You discussed the latest HIV scare on CNBC’s “Power Lunch” program, where you compassionately described the plight of performers, who may be hurt much harder by a production moratorium than will be the coffers of a company with an extensive library. This “trickle down” effect also impacts production crews, editors and many other “grunt” workers that are already suffering from the overall economy and production slowdowns. On the Internet front, chaos in the affiliate marketing and adult traffic arenas is a big source of concern, as sales decline and payment processing problems leave folks unpaid. These economic pressures are leading some operators to move on to other ventures, while driving new blood into the business; as other opportunity seekers turn to a career in adult. How important is this occasional churn of the industry’s brain trust, talent and other resources in avoiding complacency, stagnation and an overall lack of creativity that can harm sales by simply offering “more of the same” — rather than something new that would resonate better with today’s younger, tech- and socialsavvy consumers?

Vivas: This specific churn of the industry’s brain trust I think is more of an historic example we can all remember in the future to not create again. In this case, I believe what we’ve learned is that if we don’t react quickly as an industry and allow for certain things to devalue our products, people at all levels of the industry eventually are impacted. I anticipate that when the industry is presented with the opportunity to take a united stand on a common interest in the future, there will be more support for a quick movement.

XBIZ: While new people bring new ideas, Pink Visual has been able to attract and retain one of the top teams in the adult industry, boasting an experienced roster of veteran operators. Does the value of years of experience beat out the value of youth and the fresh ideas it brings — or does a company need a mix of staffers in order to be competitive?

Vivas: I would say neither. What I like about my staff is the fact that they have been here long enough to know what they should do without needing to be managed, and yet they also know when they need to ask questions. This is where their experience counts; knowing the difference between when to act and when to ask, so to speak. At the same time, another thing I like about many of the team members here is that they love to stay on top of new trends and find correlations between mainstream consumer trends and our business sector. Their age or experience here has nothing to do with that personal desire of theirs to be informed and in tune with developments in various non-adult markets.

XBIZ: How do you as president keep your staff motivated and productive?

Vivas: I try to keep my staff motivated and productive by ensuring they are empowered to make decisions and do their best work. I like to minimize management and bureaucracy. I like to be honest and share results and perspectives with everyone in the company. I also like to produce direct results myself when I can, in order to better understand the work and obstacles our team has. Having said that, there are still going to be periods of time when you can feel the energy level drop. When that happens, I look to the little things to give it a boost, and rely on getting the message out and letting the staff bring the energy back. It’s often one of their ideas that can create the spark that motivates other members of the team. The push for advanced technology. Adult entertainment today isn’t just about people, it’s also about the latest technology — an area in which Pink Visual has always been a leader. Whether it has been mobile 3D or augmented reality, or a range of technologies in between, Pink Visual has it covered.

XBIZ:How important is it to pursue and deliver the latest technology and is there a danger in being early-to-market with immature technologies — or does the value of being “first” override any potential false-starts or developmental dead ends?

Vivas: Being first to any new technology isn’t necessarily a must for us. We definitely like to be aware of technology developments, dabble in it and monitor it. We try to avoid exhausting too much effort in anything without significant market share.

XBIZ: Glasses-less 3D technology is entering the marketplace while advanced 3D home theatre systems, although still requiring viewers to wear glasses, have made great advances in image depth and quality; now mitigating the headaches some users reported. How long will it be before 3D becomes the standard rather than a novelty for consumers? Will it take the advent of widespread 3D displays and the resulting demand for content to truly revitalize adult production, or will an economic warming provide a renaissance?

Vivas: My personal prediction is that 3D won’t really take off until all screens have the capacity to change from 2D to 3D internally and without glasses. When I say ‘all screens,’ I’m including TV, computer monitors and cell phones. In my opinion, 3D TV is not a large enough market in itself to change the landscape of the adult market, as our market is largely adult males who have a private viewing area, and sufficient free time to consume adult entertainment.

XBIZ: Finally, are there any other technological breakthroughs, or other challenges or opportunities, including business-wise, politically or legislatively that you see as shaping the nearto-mid-term future of adult entertainment?

Vivas: Mobile technology will continue to shape the way consumers enjoy adult content, and we see mobile technology developing in ways that will enable adult companies to deliver a broader range of experiences to the adult consumer. Both politically and legislatively, there have always been ups and downs, but they seem to never truly shape adult entertainment. Beyond content piracy, the other challenges the adult entrepreneur faces are the over-saturation of adult content (which I think will naturally resolve itself as a market correction, since so many companies have stopped productions completely), and the effort of making the average online consumer of erotica to want to pay for adult content again. The response to that challenge needs to be making our products more than just videos that people consume passively, and to provide added value in our products. Much of the success of social networking derives from the interactivity it offers, and the ability for consumers to express themselves in an act of collective expression. While it might not be possible to duplicate that exact experience in a porn context, my sense is that there is a lot we can learn from the social networking space, and it is high time we started learning it.

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