Pure Play Media

Nate Sugar
It's Wednesday afternoon, and Pure Play Media co-founder and CEO Richard Arnold has been in Los Angeles — 3,000 miles from his family in Ontario, Canada — for a week. He makes the trip to his company's Chatsworth, Calif. offices once a month and admits that he usually feels a tinge of dread while packing his bags before leaving home. But after spending a few days talking with clients, running through deals and meeting with his sales staff, he almost doesn't want to leave.

He's having too much fun.

"I don't take advantage of the nightlife while I'm here; I'm not into that scene," Arnold explains. "For me, all the exciting stuff happens during the day. It's the business aspect — building this company and helping my clients build theirs — that's what I enjoy the most. I get so into it that it's almost a let down when I have to go home."

In only three-and-a-half years, and in a crowded market, Arnold's Pure Play Media has become recognized as a top-flight adult distributor. Business has doubled each year, thanks to the company's airtight, imaginative business plan... and a pinch or two of pure luck.

The first thing people notice about Pure Play is the brands the company represents: Seymore Butts, Private, Score, Swank Digital, Suze Randall, Cousin Stevie Inc., Danni's Hard Cut and Naughty America. "They are all the highest-quality brands in their respective areas," Arnold tells XBiz. "Every one of them offers something completely unique within the market, and there's no duplication between them."

Therein lies the core of Pure Play's founding premise — to be a boutique-style distributor of leading adult brands. Whereas most adult distributors offer thousands of titles from hundreds of producers, Arnold decided to focus on a smaller number of lines that are, in his opinion, the best in their respective categories. It's a matter of selectiveness over selection.

"In this business, there's no limit to the number of lines you can carry," Arnold says. "For example, we're looking to expand into the gay market this year, and we see lots of opportunities in the ethnic market, and maybe even gonzo, but it always boils down to the same theory — it has to be a brand that's going to help open doors for all of our other brands and help them get into markets they otherwise might not be in."

Staking a Claim
In the early 1990s, the Canadian government relaxed its rules regarding content, which made it possible for Pure Play, then a mainstream distributor, to venture into adult. And because many American lines were new to Canada, it was something like prospecting for gold in frontier territory — those who got in early also got dibs on the best claims, or, in this case, brands. Pure Play scooped up Ed Powers' "Dirty Debutantes," Rocco Siffredi's pre-Evil Angel work, Vivid and European powerhouse Private.

It was Pure Play's association with Private that would eventually bring Arnold to Los Angeles. Private felt it needed a stronger presence in the U.S. and was happy with the job Arnold was doing with its products in Canada, so it enlisted him to open a U.S. office and find local producers. One of the first things Arnold did was bring in Michael Ninn.

But, he explains, "Private is fiercely concerned with its name and logo. They didn't like the idea of losing control — any control. They wanted to 'Privatize' people, including Michael, and I felt it was taking away from what those people had to offer. So, I resigned."

Still, Arnold had the lingering sense that there was an incredible opportunity to be explored: to create a company that "takes care of the sales aspect so that they can concentrate on producing"… "a company that's secondary to the brands it represents" and "brings in great producers and product lines and lets them keep their identities intact."

With Ninn providing the big-name clout Arnold needed to open doors in the U.S., he set out to realize his vision for Pure Play, adding in one other crucial element: complete transparency. What that means, exactly, is that Pure Play opens its books to producers and splits revenues with them. Arnold says it's the only way he knows to show producers that they are getting a fair deal.

"At the end of the day, if you buy a product outright from a producer, they always feel like they're getting ripped off," he says. "We report the numbers at a set time every month and pay at a set time."

It's an approach that apparently appealed to producers — including Private. Despite the fact that Arnold had resigned from the company, it was among the first to sign on with Pure Play in the U.S., striking a reciprocal deal to provide European distribution for Pure Play's other lines.

Arnold says the shared revenue scheme has other bottom-line advantages. "The producers have as much to gain as you do. The sales, and each party's share, are directly related to the work that you and the work that they do," he says. "If it isn't working for one party or both, it's easy to see why, and you can move on."

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