The XXX business has long set the standard for technical watermarks, from the days of Beta and VHS to DVD to high-definition, with mainstream keeping a close eye on the future. Now, in a fastpaced world where consumers can get their porn in an ever-expanding variety of mediums, the halls of adult are abuzz with the idea of IPTV, Internet protocol television.
Simply put, IPTV is a subscription-based service that allows the viewer to order up — in most cases via a remote box — the material of his or her choice. It's three in the morning, and you're yearning for a fix of Miss Hollander. A flick of the remote, and there you have it: searing anal action streaming over your broadband connection, right into your TV.
And, based on the fact that by 2010, an estimated 400 million households will have broadband access, that adds up to serious profits, if even just a fraction of those folks are porn hounds.
But this latest trend is not without its bumps in the road. So far, more than a few companies (XTV, Pink TV Entice TV, to name a few) have tried and failed. The comer in the race appears to be Fyre TV, a newly launched, Miami-based concern that, so far, seems to be positioned for success in the still-open, uncharted territory of IPTV.
Helmed by Ecuador-native Estefano Isaias, Fyre has signed nonexclusive content deals with many of the major players: Red Light District, Wicked Pictures, Teravision, Metro Interactive, Evil Angel, and Mercenary Pictures, with numerous other deals in the works.
What's the attraction? It's enough to garner rave reviews (and free press) from the likes of media outlets such as Wired, Fortune, Fox News, ABC News and CNN, in addition to Fyre's multi-million dollar, multimedia ad campaign.
"In terms of technology, I don't think anyone is offering anything close to what Fyre is offering," says savvy Lexington Steele, who has signed on his Mercenary Pictures with Isaias. "I think other companies prior to Fyre certainly fell short on a promotional level; I think this will work very well for people who have been waiting for something like this, and I think it will make a big splash."
Part of that splash may be that Isaias puts as much emphasis on user-friendly tech as product; staffed by 15 "geeks, and I carry the flag," touts the boss, Fyre has been three years in the making, and will offer true DVD-quality fare over a standard DSL line. But the accent remains on "will." Begging the question of staying power, what sets Fyre apart from the also-rans?
"There are couple things," states Isaias. "First and foremost is the searchability of content. One of the things that sets us apart is we have created a very easy to use search engine where you can specify exactly what it is you want to watch. You can add multiple filters to the content you are looking for. For instance, if you want to look at only blond interracial, what we have done is we've tagged every single DVD that is in our library."
As some smart person once said, content is king, and a large part of Fyre's focus is on hot-off-the presses material.
"We're trying to get as much depth of content as possible," continues Isaias. "Since we have a revenue share deal with the companies, when you do a search on Fyre, you immediately see only the newest titles available, so obviously companies want that front page real estate, and the only way they get that is by giving us their latest stuff.
So how does it work? "You pay $9.99 a month and get a box, which connects to your broadband and your television and X amount of minutes which you can use for any content," said Isaias. "That varies on coupons and promotions."
After you've used up those minutes, you can purchase more minutes (only being charged for the time you actually watch), without any charge for searching, fast forwarding, rewinding, or menu browsing. And there are other options.
"You can buy a DVD to own that will be competitively priced," said Isaias. "All the library stuff will be about $5 — in a store that would be between $29 and $40 — and that gives you unlimited rights to watch the movie as long as you have the system. The newer stuff will be from $19 to $25, selections that aren't even commercially available yet. You can also buy unlimited content from specific content houses. For instance, if you wanted to watch anything that Wicked has ever produced, you buy the package for $25 for the time frame in which you purchase."
Though Fyre is in bed with a number of major adult companies, they were "very skeptical at first," he admits. "They'd dealt with a lot of video-on-demand guys who they felt weren't being straight with them. Their attitude was, 'one more VOD company, so what?' But we showed them the product and sent boxes to let them play with it. We got them to understand this is not what they were used to. Once they accepted the technology, it's moved very quickly. One of the things the industry has come to realize is that systems like this will be taking over the DVD market, and I think they feel they need to get on board or get left behind."
A sentiment Lex Steele is well attached to.
"The first thing that attracted me was that, as a consumer, this is a technology I would love to have," offers Steele. "Also, it gave us an excellent chance to increase the number of platforms."
Back to the begging questions; if a consumer can get their specific tastes in product for a minimal investment sent straight to their TV set — no more straddling a computer or heading to "ye olde mom and pop sex shoppe" — wouldn't this hurt a company's basic DVD sales in the online and brick and mortar worlds?
"Yes," admits Steele, "but the thing that you have to bear in mind is that, as the consumer is offered so many different ways to buy your product, you have to stay on top of the times. In the last few years, you're seeing companies increasing their importance on their online presence, in addition to the regular delivery of product to stores. So it will compete, but you have to avail yourself to all opportunities to move product.
"There's enough of the pie to split all around, and brick-and-mortar stores will always be there. I don't think IPTV will have a demonstrative impact on those sales. I think it will reach an increased number of consumers."
Perhaps a tighter squeeze will be felt by distributors, the perpetual middlemen who hold the strings between product and consumer, whose power may well take a hit from the IPTV world, should it flourish.
"This will have an impact somewhere down the road, because it'll affect distributors," continues Steele, "but I don't think that will be measurable for some time."
Fledgling that it is, Fyre is already looking to expand its content offerings; first on deck is the gay market.
"We're actually talking to a few different guys in the gay arena that will help us with getting that content," Isaias reveals. "You really have to know what the consumer is looking for, and since we're basically a straight company, I didn't feel we had the expertise to deliver good gay product. So I went out and looked for different partners from that area, and we'll be launching a gay platform soon."
And, though things are strictly in the talk stages at the moment, Fyre is in negotiations to expand internationally. According to Isaias, with over 6,000 subscription pre-orders between the company's announcement in mid-December to box shipping in mid-January, the latest player in the IPTV race is seemingly well on track.
"The success of this company and others like us will define what the user is ultimately looking for," he states. "I'm banking on the idea that people want to watch adult content on their television and not on their computer. That's why I think Fyre is going to be successful."