Among the most vibrant adult industry market segments, the live webcam industry provides fans with connection, customization, interactivity, and an emotional experience that “porn” simply cannot match — while providing opportunity for performers and studios, cam companies, their affiliates, and more.
Nowhere is this connectivity more pronounced than in Europe, which many observers see as the home and birthplace of today’s cam industry, as well as one of its most important consumer bases.
The product, meaning the models, are the most important thing in our industry. When you understand that, you can understand the role of the E.U.-based studios. -Shay Efron, Pussycash / Imlive
XBIZ recently asked a group of top-tier cam companies for their view of the current state of the live webcam business in Europe, and here’s what they had to say.
According to CAM4’s head of public relations, Derek Devlin, the company is very optimistic about growth prospects for the European live cam market.
“We predict that improvements to the average speed of internet connections, as well as a general increase in the popularity of ecommerce, will drive the growth of this market,” Devlin told XBIZ.
Bence Pipo, AWE affiliate manager, says the company’s team believes that there are still areas within the industry that should be further explored and developed, for both the customers and models alike.
“Countries with a higher GDP tend to provide more customers, however, the number of models from those countries are usually low,” Pipo explains. “Cultural and language related differences may occur because of this, and might dampen the user’s experience. We believe that user experience in this area can still be improved further.”
Industry veteran Shay Efron from PussyCash/ImLive told XBIZ that as part of the localization of adult services in general, and webcam products in particular, many companies now understand that in order to do well in EU countries they will have to adapt their product to each specific market.
“E.U. countries can be very different from one another, so the drill down should be for each country separately,” Efron explains. “When I talk about ‘drill down,’ I’m talking about adapting the UI and landing page to the relevant country.”
Efron also cites the importance of offering relevant billing options and a highly localized approach.
“In the E.U. market, we’re talking about many different alternative billing solutions, as in most E.U. countries the credit card usage percentage is much lower than in the North American markets,” Efron told XBIZ. “But the most important thing obviously is to have a local product, which means local models — female, male, and transgender — that will generate the needed conversions from local users.”
Efron notes that in addition to PussyCash/ImLive, other companies have made adjustments to provide a perfect local product for each of the main E.U. markets, including many new, smaller webcam companies that focus only on their home country’s market.
“Like anything in life,” Efron says, “This has its upsides and downsides.”
As for how big a role cam studios are playing in the European market today, the experts agree that studios offer several benefits, including better quality cam feeds and more consistent model volume.
“The product, meaning the models, are the most important thing in our industry,” Efron says. “When you understand that, you can understand the role of the E.U.-based studios.”
Efron points to the fact that some E.U. countries, such as Romania, are among the world’s leaders in providing content to the industry and educating models, underscoring the important role these studios play in today’s market.
“Some of the studios became so professional that they actually train their models to perfection,” Efron explains. “They teach them languages that will help convert users from North America, and explore the different webcam platforms in order to find the most lucrative ones for their models to work on.”
“Saying that, all major players in our industry established their own E.U. studios, mainly in Romania and some former U.S.S.R. countries,” Efron says. “[This was] in order to be able to better control the studio performances, and in order to improve their own product by paying attention to the things that will create a difference.”
Efron told XBIZ that it is hard to sustain a solid webcam product in the E.U. by working with independent models, so cam platforms must work with studios at some level in order to have enough models online at any given time. “ImLive may be the only big webcam platform that does not own or operate its own studios,” Efron notes. “However, we do work with many E.U. studios, some of them through exclusive relationships.”
The role of studios thus transcends simply providing inventory to become a competitive advantage for both cam companies and performers alike.
“Considering the fact that studios are better equipped to offer high quality service with a professional technical background, they are essential in Europe,” Pipo told XBIZ. “Unfortunately, a model can rarely afford the equipment needed to start by themselves.”
Given the benefits that studios offer and the profit potential of the marketplace, one might wonder why more of them are not started, but Devlin says regulation remains a big challenge for European studios.
“Some countries have archaic laws dealing with this subject matter — Italy, for instance, makes it a criminal offense to cam,” Devlin explains. “These constraints limit the scope of opportunity [and are] the reason CAM4 does not work with studios in France, Italy or Spain.”
“With rising unemployment rates across Europe, camming represents a viable means of seeking meaningful employment,” Devlin concludes. “It’s a shame that governments seek to impose oppressive, outdated laws that restrict the opportunity of Europeans to pursue this exciting and rewarding industry of camming.”
The use of studios is another dynamic in the differences between the way that European cam customers and models are served, compared to those in other markets.
“As opposed to mostly studio based models in Europe and South America, U.S. models mostly prefer to perform from home — and U.S. customers often prefer them this way,” Pipo says. “There are noticeable lifestyle differences between continents, but due to the common goal — satisfaction through live sex —the lines between these markets are often blurred.”
These realities not only reflect the demographic differences between audiences, but also underscore their common denominator: the need for an interpersonal connection.
“There’s a difference between guys from differ continents and even countries when dealing with the field of interest for conversation, with the topics that might be proper to bring up during private chat and even around their sexual preferences and requests,” Efron told XBIZ. “Saying this, we need to remember the bottom line: webcam services are first of all online connection services that provide the user with things that he cannot or doesn’t want to get by himself out of the net.”
“From that aspect,” Efron says, “people all over the world are alike.”
As for what the future hold for cams in Europe, observers of today’s scene point to continued demand despite some significant challenges. “E.U. cam products will continue to rise and flourish like the North American ones,” Efron says. “The level of exposure to cams in the general eligible population is so low — around five or six percent, unlike tubes, for example — that the glass ceiling is still way up above us all.”
“It doesn’t mean though that E.U. markets won’t deal with unique problems,” Efron concludes, citing a litany of challenges including low credit card usage; the need for chargeback-free alternative billing solutions; mobile payment systems that are not adapted to the webcam business model; increased tax rates and new regulations; banks that avoid serving high-risk adult businesses, and more.
For its part, the AWE team sees increasing globalization and a boost in cam quality on the horizon, which will help further drive the marketplace.
“As more and more studios become professional, even if the quantity of models is not endless, the quality of service definitely increases over time,” Pipo says. “We hope to see more studios from Western/Northern Europe in the future as well.”
“Camming is here to stay and grow,” Pipo concludes, pointing to the live cam market’s bright future.