opinion

The Live Adult Webcam Sector Is Thriving

Stephen Yagielowicz

Having undergone nearly two decades of erotic evolution, today’s highly professional live adult webcam industry is big business — and a far cry from its humble beginnings as an exhibitionist’s personal project, and the haven of amateur adult website operators.

Widely regarded as the first adult cam site, 1996’s launch of JenniCam offered a glimpse into Jenni’s daily life — including her sex life. While she may not have fully anticipated (or welcomed) the resulting notoriety, her personal openness will be forever correlated with sexuality; and credited with ushering in the era of every girl (and guy) being able to broadcast their sexuality worldwide, for both fun and profit.

The growth of the live cam market puts it squarely at the forefront of interactive porn, supplanting live phone chat with its visual cousin and enjoying its time in the sun.

JenniCam was a cultural phenomenon that was quickly embraced by other models and companies, such as iFriends (which is still in operation today), and which may have been the first widely used platform to aggregate individual cam operators into one network — allowing anyone to set up a live webcam, and bringing together the technology, traffic and payment processing services performers needed to profit.

Democratizing exhibitionism for profit for the masses and forming business models still in use today —where individual operators cam as part of their own site’s services; as a cam studio contractor; and/or as part of an aggregator’s program — today’s live adult webcam business is by all accounts thriving.

As with analyzing any other segment of the online adult entertainment industry, providing an accurate estimate of the size of today’s live cam market is problematic. Mark Twain said it best when he famously referred to “liars, damn liars and statistics,” the former two best describing any numbers attributable to the adult industry, which is overwhelmingly made up of privately held companies that have no beneficial reason to report actual revenues. While many numbers are tossed about, quantifying porn’s revenues is impossible. With that being said, anecdotal reports indicate that live webcam revenues may account for as much as a third or more of online adult revenues today — making cams a multi-billion dollar business.

This abundance of opportunity has attracted a wide range of players old and new to the cam market — with many adult companies getting in on cams not only to survive, but to thrive.

For example, Playboy profits from a branded white label cam site, while Penthouse is tied to AdultFriendFinder, which is well entrenched in the live cam market — perhaps putting the brand in a better position than its peers. But while veteran brands are embracing cams, it is the newer players that are generating most of the buzz.

One difference between the traditional adult industry, which is centered around several hubs, including greater Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Miami, with enclaves in Montreal, Barcelona and elsewhere, is that the live cam industry is much more decentralized — seeing significant participation from Romania and Russia, Hungary and beyond — with studios and performers located all around the world.

Part of this expansionist trend is that a growing number of performers are based in Latin America and South America (this is a huge point, as performer revenues have made camming financially unappealing for many American girls, unless they have an established brand or fan base, i.e. porn stars and solo site operators satisfying member demand).

For a different angle on this vibrant market segment, consider the impact that performers have had on the growth of the live cam industry: As the broader business watched tube sites begin killing off video and paysite segments, cam sites gained in popularity — driven in part by now out-of-work (or underemployed) performers who took their careers into their own hands; leveraging social media to promote their cam shows and other revenue streams, such as feature dancing, escorting, whatever. Live camming became the Millennial lifestyle — and it appears to be here to stay.

Performers are also empowering themselves by stepping back from total reliance on the big aggregators by expanding their offerings to private, Pay-Pal-funded Skype shows, and other media channels that put more of the profit into the performer’s own hands. Technology plays a major role in this empowerment, bringing TV-studio capabilities to smartphones, while higher speed connections enable direct video chat, via Skype, Facetime and other cam enabled apps, anytime, anywhere — discreetly, profitably and safely.

The growth of the live cam market puts it squarely at the forefront of interactive porn, supplanting live phone chat with its visual cousin and enjoying its time in the sun before it in turn will be replaced by the latest interactive technology, virtual reality, which will bring the live webcam sex experience closer to the real life satisfaction afforded by one-on-one intimate interaction.

Other indicators of the evolution of the live adult cam business can be found in recent shifts in mid- and upper-level management at some powerhouse programs, as well as the offering of groundbreaking new products, the shuffling of existing lines, and the promise of new technologies and services to come.

The live interactive webcam market has become a dominant force in adult entertainment in 2015 — even spawning its own trade events, such as the upcoming Camming Con, being held in conjunction with the popular XBIZ Miami show, providing attendees of both shows with a week of informative seminars, executive networking and exclusive special events. The action begins on June 1, so if you haven’t made plans to attend yet, do so now, because the clock is running on one of porn’s biggest opportunities.

As for the last word on live cams, we’re now pushing 20 years into this business, and are only beginning to explore the many possibilities of this confluence of carnality and creativity, which empowers women (and men) everywhere — ensuring a long and profitable future ahead.

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