Naked Ambition

Alex Henderson

For NakedSword, 2010 may very well go down in history not only as the year in which the San Francisco-based company celebrated its 13th anniversary, but also, as the year in which it seriously expanded into producing original content. Naked Sword, which CEO Tim Valenti founded in 1997, has long been recognized as the adult entertainment industry’s most successful gay video-on-demand provider. But with the launching of “Golden Gate,” which Valenti describes as “an episodic weekly series about the sex lives of men in San Francisco,” NakedSword is making original content a high priority.

“We have been marketing other people’s brands, and we will continue to do that,” Valenti explained. “But we are going from being strictly video-on-demand to marketing our own content under our own brand. It’s like starting a whole new business, but with a great and well known brand already in front of it. From time to time, we have co-produced different projects and individual movies. We’ve done projects with Dirty Boy Video; we’ve done movies with Raging Stallion. But this series called ‘Golden Gate’ is completely different in that it’s ongoing, it’s weekly, it’s on our membership site — and every three months, we will release a DVD of ‘Golden Gate’ content. That’s a really big change for us.”

It’s a hard fact that if you want to stay in business, you have to make choices. ‘Golden Gate’ shows that NakedSword is always evolving.

In the gay adult market, the NakedSword brand has enjoyed a considerable amount of credibility since the late 1990s—and along the way, has offered VOD content by quite a few major names in gay erotica, including Falcon Entertainment, Raging Stallion, Lucas Entertainment, Hot House Entertainment, COLT Studio Group, Treasure Island Media and Studio 2000. “When we started over a decade ago,” Valenti recalled, “we were one of the first sites to capitalize on video streaming online.”

One of the things that has kept NakedSword in business for 13 years, according to Valenti, is a willingness to evolve, take chances and experiment. In addition to its sizable VOD library, NakedSword is known for sponsoring The Tim & Roma Show—a biweekly adult entertainment-oriented program that Valenti co-hosts with Sister Roma, who is a well known drag performer and gay rights activist in the Bay Area. And NakedSword is also known for its affiliate program and for publishing two high-traffic blogs: the consumer-oriented The Sword and the more adult industryminded Gay Porn Blog.

“Almost half of my current staff has been with me from Day One,” Valenti noted. “We have a great time, which is how we come up with so many different ideas—and that’s how we’ve been nimble enough to reinvent ourselves and to change. That’s how we’ve been able to face the challenges that we have had to face. Integrating into the AEBN network alone was a great challenge.”

In early 2007, NakedSword announced that it was merging with the Charlotte, N.C.-based AEBN. Naked Sword, however, didn’t move to North Carolina but instead, maintained its office in the Bay Area. Being San Francisco-based, Valenti said, has been quite advantageous for NakedSword and will continue to be now that “Golden Gate” is being produced in that city.

“San Francisco is such a beloved place in the gay culture,” Valenti stressed. “San Francisco is a special place for the gay culture and the gay community and gay sexuality. All kinds of guys live in San Francisco, and we’re really trying to show the contrasts with ‘Golden Gate.’

The economic downturn of 2007-2010 has exploded the myth that adult entertainment is recession-proof, and gay companies have not gone unscathed. But Valenti pointed out that despite the financial challenges adult companies have been facing, NakedSword is ending 2010 on a positive note.

“2010 was a rough year for the adult entertainment industry,” Valenti said. “It really was. NakedSword had to make a lot of changes as far as how we spend our money and how we operate — and we made them. And I’m really proud to say that I believe that at the end of this year, we will be somewhere between 25 and 29 percent profitable in an industry that has been hurting very badly in the last couple of years. I’m really proud of that.”

Valenti asserted that becoming complacent is the last thing a company should do in an economic downturn. Naked Sword, he said, has been the opposite of complacent during its 13 years in business, and that isn’t about to change in 2011.

“It’s a hard fact that if you want to stay in business, you have to make choices. ‘Golden Gate’ shows that NakedSword is always evolving. We want to keep growing, and we want to work with as many talented people as we can. We love working with other companies; we’re not proprietary that way.”

Valenti added: “Our main business objective has been to provide the most wide-ranging gay adult entertainment — and that can only happen if you are diversifying. We do quite a bit here at Naked Sword, which is why we’re still here after all this time and why we’re still on top.”