Executive Seat: Peter Reynolds’ ‘Bag’ of Tricks

Bob Johnson

Monetizing content has been the watchword in adult for so long it’s almost become a common greeting among industry pros. “How are you? How are you making money these days,” they ask.

So when there’s a viable path to boosting revenue, people take notice. Enter Peter Reynolds. A hired gun of sorts, Reynolds is a self-made executive in the world of content licensing who in the ‘80’s shed the volatile world of radio hosting for two Los Angeles stations and took a shot answering an ad in the L.A. Times for video sales.

The days of vague deal memos with no details are over. The studio needs to know exactly where their content is going so they can track territories and monetize each production in all markets.

“I had no idea it was in adult until my interview, of course. That company was Video Home Entertainment. Wholesale prices to stores were $55 per movie on VHS. Business was insane and so were my checks,” he says.

But the money wasn’t all that got Reynolds hooked on adult. The industry was on a roll and the rush of big numbers and the lack of today’s inherent Internet problems made his new career seem like a dream compared to his former dogeat-dog radio gigs.

His adult initiation eventually led him to then powerhouse VCA just after the monumental release of “The Devil in Miss Jones 2.” “Everyone was having fun,” he says. “I remember hearing how Russ Hampshire had brought the entire company out to dinner at the Palm Restaurant in West Hollywood because they had just shipped 30,000 copies the first week!”

Fortunately the fun lasted at VCA, which became Reynolds’ home for the next five years. But he didn’t stop there. The adult pro then moved on to Vivid Entertainment and then LFP (Larry Flynt Publications/Hustler) — two of the industry’s preeminent brands.

The combined experience with two of adult’s biggest studios bolstered his impressive resume and illustrates how Reynolds earned his executive chops. He maintains that he was constantly challenged with competition from other studios and had to always do them one better.

“The key was always the quality of the movies and my customer service. I was selling good product and I would back up what I was selling and always came through with what I promised. This helped me build a reputation as someone who follows through,” he says.

And if working for three of the industry giants weren’t enough, Reynolds then went on to be tapped as vice president of sales and marketing for Adam & Eve, another industry giant. This position exposed Reynolds to a new part of the adult business — international content licensing — that opened the door to gaining new experience and virtually setting the stage for his next big venture.

“This was always an area of interest for me and I was eager to expand Adam and Eve’s market share,” he says.

But the economic challenges of 2008 saw Adam & Eve close its California offices leaving Reynolds to make a quick decision. Instead of lamenting over the tough times and receding DVD market, Reynolds once again shifted gears — this time as an entrepreneur.

Reynolds’s new company, Plaid Bag Media, was founded on July 1 with Adam & Eve as its first client. Reynolds says that his great working relationship with Adam & Eve’s Bob Christian and his respect for owner Phil Harvey’s “sex positive” philosophy and business acumen was a perfect fit to help him launch Plaid Bag.

The new company owner became Adam & Eve’s exclusive licensing agent and quickly launched the veteran sales pro into a globe-trekking representative for a number of studios all hungry to get their content working for them.

Navigating the licensing business — especially internationally — requires some keen acumen that Reynolds says comes with getting boots on the ground and understanding each market’s needs and wants.

“I represent various studios, each with its own specialty. The primary difference between Europe and the U.S. is that Europe is made up of many different countries, i.e. markets, each with their own unique characteristics. What works in say, England, may not work in Germany and vice versa,” Reynolds says.

A major portion of Reynolds’ business in today’s market is cable TV and IPTV. A benefit of these markets is that it allows for both hardcore and soft versions that Reynolds says he has plenty of which to choose from depending on the territory and/or the platform.

And in broadcast there are plenty of players and new emerging companies that are making things “interesting” for his particular business. “To divulge that list, you would have to kill me first,” he quips.

Being a one-man show presents unique challenges, however. The competition is reminiscent of the old VHS and DVD days simply because of the sheer amount of content that’s available from studios, website producers and independent filmmakers.

Content needs to be sifted through and segregated by niche, market and quality. Only a seasoned executive with a background in all of these areas has the right stuff to be able to satisfy a client’s needs and a producer’s pockets.

Reynolds says there’s always a demand for quality features, celebrity sex tapes, parodies and amateur content, but he points out that the one category that has suffered is gonzo because of the massive amount available. “The companies that are doing well with gonzo are the ones that make an excellent product and keep their prices up. Evil Angel for example,” he says.

More sage advice from Reynolds centers on new technologies. He says producers need to focus on digital alternatives, delivery platforms, and being ready to quickly deliver content in the format buyers want.

The “good ol’ days” of simply making porn, putting it on the market and watching it fly off of the shelves are gone, he says.

“Producers need to familiarize themselves with the specs needed in different countries and they need to keep this in mind when shooting. I strongly suggest to them that they have their content up on their own website so it can be viewed by buyers. Making someone wait for a DVD screener shipment can cost them the sale. These days, it is no longer ‘business as usual.’ Companies should seek to create unique and entertaining content that can be portable and stimulating in any format. A company has to keep on its toes 24/7 and not get lazy,” he says.

Reynolds also cautions producers not to create second-rate content that “rips off the consumer.” He says the public’s a lot more savvy these days and the proliferation of porn makes it a buyer’s market.

The good news, according to him, is that licensing content is still a viable adult business but he advises producers to be honest in their business dealings. “I don’t shove a contract at a client with one hand while holding my nose with the other. I don’t present a contract to my customer that I wouldn’t sign myself. Full disclosure of platform, territory and licensee is imperative today. The days of vague deal memos with no details are over. The studio needs to know exactly where their content is going so they can track territories and monetize each production in all markets,” he says.

And who should know better? Reynolds has been traveling the globe several times a year making deals — “plaid bag” packed with plenty of experience.