LOS ANGELES — In a move that surprised many, Kelly Holland announced today the acquisition of outstanding shares of Penthouse Entertainment from FriendFinder Networks Inc.
It was Bob Guccione who founded the Penthouse brand in 1965 in the U.K. and later in 1969 in the U.S. to compete with Playboy magazine. The brand later added divisions for licensing, Internet and filmmaking.
While the company had a turbulent part of the early 2000s, it later became a part of Friendfinder Networks.
Tonight, XBIZ spoke with Holland about the monumental adult entertainment deal announced earlier today and the future of the famous adult brand.
XBIZ: What motivated you to acquire Penthouse?
KELLY HOLLAND: I have been inside this brand for many years and it is an amazing, seductive iconic brand with a fascinating history.
Guccione was part genius, part madman and he built one of the great, men’s brands during the cultural revolution but it was his DNA, his genius that ran through its veins.
When he left I think the brand spent some time wondering in the desert for lack of a better metaphor. A lot of people had their hands on it, they pushed it into whatever box suited their purpose or fit their vision but that did not necessarily serve the brand.
Brands, especially big, global brands with such a rich history, are like living organisms. You need to respect their DNA, support their personality. I think it’s important to respect the brand and act as a shepherd … or shepherdess as the case may be.
Penthouse also had four distinct business units that ran in complete isolation.
I’m a big supporter of the Gestalt theory, that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I think that putting each division in its own silo created a schizophrenic brand that had multiple, contradictory messages. I know what this brand was, where its weak spots have been over the last few years and what it can be with a clear vision, best practices and a consistent brand message. This brand can grow and grow quickly.
XBIZ: What do you envision for the future of each division — magazine, film division, licensing, broadcasting?
HOLLAND: The magazines — plural — are critical to messaging the brand. Penthouse Magazine is the flagship, it’s the legacy, and as such it’s important that it becomes our strong statement on what this brand is. With that said we are all clear as to the challenges that face print publishing.
We need to cut costs, find efficiencies and turn publishing to a profit center and we can. We have a clear roadmap and we are already walking down the path in a partnership with our Australian magazine licensee who publishes a brilliant magazine.
Penthouse Letters and Penthouse Forum have large female audiences and we need to expand through them by bringing in the huge erotic blogosphere. Penthouse Variations is our fetish/alt magazine and that is a growing market if we can use video as an indicator.
Digital is the big turnaround. We have never had any touch points to digital and our paysite, it has been run by our parent corporation that is a large technology company.
We need to launch a great brand site that also brings together all of our amazing content, both new and vintage, and has interesting offers for our fans every day.
Whether that’s bundling the print magazine with the paysite or offering a variety of ways to be a part of the brand in live event spaces. The digital space has been the most underserved for quite some time so it has the greatest growth potential.
Our broadcast operations globally represent the most successful adult brand in the marketplace. We will continue that success but expand with new offering that are tailored to niche markets. At the same time, we are beginning to create alliances and partnerships with mainstream media outlets. As the brand grows overall the opportunity for growth in mainstream will grow as well
Licensing, both brick-and-mortar and product licensing, is the brass ring. But before we grab at it too frantically we need to align all of the business units so that our brand message is consistent and runs throughout each division. We have many unexploited categories, especially in brick and mortar, that present major opportunities
XBIZ: Do you plan on exploring new product categories or verticals?
HOLLAND: Yes, we survive on “new.” We are the sharks that must continue to move forward to gather enough oxygen to survive and new products are the oxygen. Success in 2016 for a big brand is becoming ubiquitous.
Being everywhere that your fan base is, supplying content, information, products, in all of the ways your fans consume those things; online, mobile, the airport newsstand, the clothes, the sneakers, the wine they drink.
My goal is to create community, to become the trusted source for all things “Men’s Great Lifestyle.”
XBIZ: What will be your area of focus this year?
HOLLAND: Digital, digital, digital. All things digital from the main site to digital magazines to location-based concierge apps
XBIZ: What are your long-term goals for Penthouse?
HOLLAND: Licensing, licensing, licensing … once I have digital in hand.