Barnett Sells Websites, Cites U.K. Porn Enforcement as Reason

Rhett Pardon

LONDON — Jerry Barnett has given up his company's two blue-chip sites, Anywhere.XXX and StrictlyBroadband.com, after U.K. regulators served papers last month that gave him a strict schedule to comply with new age-verification rules.

Barnett, the managing director of Strictly Broadband Ltd. and chairman of U.K. adult entertainment industry trade group AITA who made a passionate plea earlier this year to the ATVOD board to ease up on strict new rules facing adult operators in the country, said he had no choice to close shop.

"ATVOD has implemented an age-verification regulation for adult sites that makes it effectively impossible to run a video-on-demand site in the U.K.," Barnett told XBIZ.

He said that Anywhere.XXX and StrictlyBroadband.com both have been sold to a U.S. company, Velvet Rose LLC, which will now manage and publish its content, as well as run its affiliate program.

ATVOD, the U.K. regulatory agency formally known as Authority for Television on Demand, has not budged on easing new regulations for adult operators, despite hearing threats that most would relocate elsewhere outside of its scope.

U.K.-based VOD operators now face enforcement of Rule 11, which requires that they ensure that those under 18 cannot access hardcore porn.

In April, Barnett told ATVOD's board in a letter that enforcement of Rule 11 would "decimate" the U.K. adult industry.

He said that it's already hard enough for an adult entrepreneur to make a profit since in the past four years revenue has declined industrywide by 80-90 percent, partly because of the popularity of tube sites operated abroad. Barnett said his own business has shrunk by 50 percent during the past four years.

"The end result is that, as the ATVOD  regulations are being introduced, many of the original players have gone out of business and those that remain are relatively small businesses compared to a few years ago," wrote Barnett, noting that nearly all — 99 percent — of online adult businesses worldwide operate outside ATVOD’s scope.

But his stance put him at the center of ATVOD's storm on the issue, and Barnett said that he later became a center of attention over Rule 11.

"As the lead lobbyist for the U.K. [adult] industry, I unfortunately was a fairly easy target, and was forced to stop operating the sites by Aug. 1," Barnett said.

Barnett told XBIZ that after he closes down the sites' operating company, Strictly Broadband Ltd., he will be setting up a new business called London VOD Services to continue providing technical services for the entertainment industry, including  the adult biz.

"I will also be continuing my campaigning and lobbying work against censorship in the U.K., once the handover is complete and I have time on my hands again," he said.

Related: