CNBC Looks at 'Porn: Business of Pleasure'
CNBC correspondent Melissa Lee starts the show with an introduction from Times Square — once filled with adult stores and theaters before a cleanup effort in the '90s — to begin a contemporary journey looking at the business of the adult industry.
"Porn is fighting for profits," Lee says in the introduction.
The show looks at the reported drop in DVD sales and the ongoing mainstreaming of adult material, including the rise of Penthouse and Hustler magazines in the late '60s and early '70s and the cultural phenomenon of "Deep Throat."
"Shot in six days on a budget of $25,000, the movie has a plot," Lee says. "'Deep Throat is one of the most profitable films, adult or mainstream, in the 1970s."
The program looks at the mainstreaming of adult, illustrated by the casting of adult performer Sasha Grey in mainstream director Steven Soderbergh's low-budget mainstream production "The Girlfriend Experience" and soap opera actress Kelly McCarty's appearance in Vivid's "Faithless."
"Adult and mainstream, it's so hard to split them up for me because honestly, I do look at it as one," Grey tells CNBC. "I don't try to put a clear defined line between the two. I'm just trying to build my brand. Make a name for myself."
Another illustration of the mainstreaming of adult is a look at the production of Digital Playground's "Pirates II," with its computer-generated skeletons and full-size ship set.
"There's even a plot to go along with the sex," Lee says.
Turning to the question of the business end of adult, Wired magazine's Nick Thompson says that the adult industry is facing the same problems the music industry did with the introduction of file-sharing technology.
"Both industries are facing the same threats," Thompson says. "They've responded slightly differently, but we've seen the music industry transformed by people uploading music, by file shares, by people thinking albums should only be for free."
Max Hardcore and his obscenity conviction also are covered, with an interview shot before Hardcore surrendered to federal officials.
"Society has spoken, and they've demanded it," Hardcore says of his videos. "There's more people buying my videos than people protesting my videos. When I was put on federal trial in Tampa, Fla., there were no protesters. There were no picketers. There were no people angrily denouncing me as I came in and left the courtroom."
Joy King, Wicked Pictures vice president of special projects, tells Lee about her input on content.
"I tell my directors, I want a stronger female lead," King says. "I don't want it all to be about the guy ... That's definitely a change we've seen in the last several years. Women want to see a woman have an orgasm too, not just the guy."
Lee also interviews Digital Playground contract performer Jesse Jane at her Oklahoma City home.
"I'm country," Jane says. "I have a John Deere tractor, I have go-karts, all the hick stuff, I have it. This place, everybody's so nice — they don't judge you."
The show also talks with antiporn activist Patrick Trueman and self-admitted "porn addict" and author Michael Leahy, and shows a 1979 protest against porn led by group Woman Against Pornography.
Adult industry personalities who also appear in the show include Vivid Entertainment co-founder Steven Hirsch, Digital Playground CEO Samantha Lewis and director Robby D, Burning Angel producer/performer Joanna Angel, Pink Visual President Allison Vivas and director Mike Quasar.
"Porn: Business of Pleasure" will air on CNBC Wednesday at 9 pm., 10 p.m. and 1 a.m., with repeats during the week.