Q&A: Kink.com Founder Acworth Discusses Rebranding, Future Plans

Bob Johnson

LOS ANGELES — Online BDSM giant Kink.com last week announced that it was rebranding the company, moving away from its signature extreme content offerings to focus on a broader audience and bolstering its live San Francisco community events.

Whenever a leader in its field makes such a significant change it immediately sends a signal throughout the industry that there may be some serious underlying reasoning or that a seismic shift is about to occur.

Speculation often runs rampant — and usually untrue, or simply wishful rumor.

Never one to mince words, XBIZ went straight to the source — Kink.com founder Peter Acworth — to further learn just what’s behind the move and to shed some more light on just why Kink is becoming less kinky.

XBIZ: What prompted your decision to rebrand Kink and move away from extreme material?

Peter Acworth: I am not convinced (what could be perceived as) more extreme material necessarily has a larger market. Moreover, if you present (again, what looks like) extreme acts, there is a danger of being misinterpreted by the newcomer. Intense BDSM scenes are done with a great deal of negotiation, and it is not possible to portray this in the context of a quick movie. Such misinterpretation can work against the brand of a company, and in our case, against our mission statement of ‘demystifying alternative sexuality.’

XBIZ: Explain what you mean by focusing on a "broader audience" and becoming a "lifestyle brand."

Acworth: BDSM is about to go mainstream, as evidenced by "Fifty Shades of Grey." There is an enormous market out there for curious newcomers to BDSM. I would like Kink.com to provide physical entertainment in the form of our event space (TheArmoryCommunityCenter.com), our bar (TheArmoryClub.com), our tours and classes (ArmoryStudios.com). Additionally, I want to focus on our training website, KinkUniversity.com, our training website, and novelty goods, which we aim to be tightly integrated with our recorded movies and live websites.

XBIZ: How will Kink's future content differ from what's been produced?

Acworth: We're no longer producing material with extras, such as BoundInPublic.com or PublicDisgrace.com. We are additionally rebranding BoundGangbangs.com as FantasyGangbangs.com. The latter will demonstrate consent to a greater extent.

XBIZ: Will previously produced Kink content remain available online?

Acworth: We will be reviewing BoundGangbangs and PublicDisgrace shoots with a view to re-editing some of them, and/or taking them down.

XBIZ: Will the new stance affect Kink's live cam operations?

Acworth: These will remain unaffected. We generally feel that whatever happens behind the closed curtains of a live show should remain between the performer and his/her clients. Having said that, our CSRs [customer service reps] will continue to monitor shows behind the scenes and ensure our customers are being respectful to performers.

XBIZ: How do you plan to offset the possible loss of revenue from Kink's new initiative?

Acworth: In reality we produce so much BDSM that we are only competing with ourselves. As a result, I do not anticipate a big drop in revenues from this move.

XBIZ: What has been the initial reaction to Kink's rebranding announcement?

Acworth: Aside from requests for a Q&A, very little reaction.

XBIZ: Where do you see Kink in five years?

Acworth: I would like the Armory to be a nationally recognized venue for mainstream events, which are edgy, and hence allow cross promotion with the Kink.com brand. I hope the Armory will become a 'must see' tourist destination in San Francisco and help represent San Francisco for what it is — a very special place where ‘your sexuality is OK.’

I would also like to add a Museum of Sex, a cafeteria, a gift shop to our existing tours, classes, event space and local bar. Thus, we will pull the slightly tamer Kink.com brand into the mainstream. Additionally, I hope we will be the primary player in the BDSM novelty market, and the place to come to for not only BDSM recorded content, but for paid social and live interactions with anyone who considers themselves a kink performer. In the future I feel the 'performer' concept will generalize and include not only those who want to perform in video, but also those who want to market their online persona via a live and/or purely social form.