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Adult Film Producers Discuss Enduring Appeal of DVDs

Adult Film Producers Discuss Enduring Appeal of DVDs
Alex Henderson

The adult entertainment industry has long been known for its ability to jump on new technologies and quickly find their money-making potential. That was true when the VHS market exploded in the 1980s and the internet emerged in the 1990s, and it certainly didn’t take adult film studios long to embrace DVDs. The late 1990s and 2000s were boom years for the adult DVD market, which has slowed down since then. Slowing down, however, is not the same as disappearing — and in 2017, erotic DVDs still have their audience despite the prominence of digital downloads.

Adam Grayson, chief financial officer for Evil Angel Video, observed that DVDs still comprise roughly one-third of the company’s sales.

Someone who wants a DVD wants a tactile experience; they want to feel it in their hands, enjoy it in the comfort of their home. They like the ritual of it all. Also, these consumers tend to not want the perceived risk of online shopping, and/or they are technology-averse.

Grayson told XBIZ, “I don’t think it will be earth-shaking news when I say that DVD sales aren’t great compared to 2011 or 2006. Anyone who bought DVD futures and is surprised about the sales trends was delusional to start with. In 2017, DVDs will be around 30-35 percent of our top-line revenue. It has, frankly, become the side dish to our digital business, most of which is EvilAngel.com.”

Rather than trying to fight the demand for digital porn, Grayson said, Evil Angel is giving customers what they want.

“Frankly, DVD has become the tail to digital’s dog,” Grayson asserted. “Cover design is done with the idea that a fan is seeing a 200px wide thumbnail, not necessarily holding a DVD in his hand. While Evil Angel continues to price our content at a premium, we’ve become more creative in the past few years about different ways to package, market and sell overstock. When it comes to DVD, the most reliable promotional tactic is still discounting … I think we’re at peace with the idea that we can’t make more consumers want DVDs instead of a digital experience.”

Howard Levine, president of Exile Distribution, was with Vivid Entertainment during the heyday of adult DVDs — and the adult industry veteran emphasized that while DVD sales aren’t what they were during his Vivid days, the market is far from dead.

“This might be hard to believe, but DVD sales are still moving along pretty well,” Levine told XBIZ. “It is not like it was five years ago, but all in all, we still do a pretty brisk business. Middle America is still buying DVDs. I sell more DVDs than I do digital downloads. The main thing to understand is that we sell on all platforms across the board: VOD, broadcast, DVD and international.”

Asked how adult DVD sales in 2017 compare to five or 10 years ago, Levine replied, “The honest answer to that is there is no comparison. We still can make a good living now, but 10 years ago, the internet was very new — and (the internet) is what hurt the DVD industry. I have sold probably the most VHS and DVDs of any person in the business. During my tenure at Vivid, I sold 85,000 units of ‘Devil in Miss Jones’; that was in one week. Pam (Anderson) and Tommy (Lee) had to be over 1 million copies, and that list goes on and on. Vivid’s celebrity titles were monsters and still sell today.”

Peter Acworth, CEO of BDSM studio Kink.com, estimated that in 2017, “Kink’s revenues are only about 2 percent DVDs at best.” Nonetheless, Kink hasn’t gotten out of DVDs altogether — and Matt Slusarenko, director of marketing and business development for Kink.com, said that one way to sell DVDs is by forming alliances with sex toy manufacturers.

“By digging in with our partners and optimizing how we compile the best content to trend with what is currently selling in the DVD market, we are able to maximize our revenues,” Slusarenko told XBIZ. “We’ve also seen that merchandising is extremely important. Our DVD content is now enhanced in stores by our line of products with Doc Johnson, Kink by Doc Johnson, further enhancing our brand recognition as the dominant force in BDSM.”

Bob Christian, director of new business for Adam & Eve, said that in 2017, the brand’s high-end, plot-driven adult films are lending themselves to a multi-format approach — and DVDs are one of the formats.

“DVD sales are level with 2016, but down just a couple of (percentage points),” Christian told XBIZ. “Some movies, like ‘Adventures with the Baumgartners,’ have done exceptionally well. But we are certainly not experiencing growth (with DVDs).”

Christian continued, “Both of our digital streaming sites are performing well, with our membership site, AdamEveTV.com, experiencing double digit growth. Specifically, to digital downloads, we are seeing that part of our VOD site, AdamEveVOD.com, being particularly strong and growing.”

If a customer is going to choose a DVD over a download, Christian said, the DVD must offer something special — and extras are still a great way to achieve that.

“In a word, extras — the DVD extras that are not contained in a straight movie download present opportunity to make a DVD purchase appealing,” Christian explained.

Jake Jaxson, CEO of gay studio CockyBoys.com, described DVD buyers and download buyers as two different types of customers — and both can be profitable, he said.

“Folks who like to download want it now,” Jaxson told XBIZ. “In fact, more and more, they want it now and portable — with them on their phone, stored and saved to a cloud drive. Someone who wants a DVD wants a tactile experience; they want to feel it in their hands, enjoy it in the comfort of their home. They like the ritual of it all. Also, these consumers tend to not want the perceived risk of online shopping, and/or they are technology-averse.”

Wendy Crawford, president of Adult Source Media, noted that while her company is still DVD-friendly, she is happy to embrace other formats as well — especially for younger consumers who aren’t buying a lot of DVDs.

“We participate in every medium in every market globally,” Crawford told XBIZ. “I don’t view digital downloads, pay per minute, streaming, VOD, IPTV in any way as a negative. I think there are consumers of content for all different mediums, for all different reasons. Specifically, this younger generation has bought very few, if any, DVDs. We all need to embrace these mediums because they are the future of our business.”

Crawford continued, “We still do quite well with DVDs because we strategically picked companies that hit the top marks in their niche markets for DVD distribution. X-Art and Colette are the leaders in couples-friendly, high-production-value content. With our own lines, we went to the most uncrowded space — which is Japanese animation. And with its mainstream appeal and sales, we haven’t seen much of a decline in 2017.”

Anton Slayer, director and production manager of Metro Studios, asserted that while DVD sales have been decreasing in recent years, it is a mistake to write off the DVD market altogether.

“For us, physical media sales constitute a smaller portion of the business today but are still a meaningful portion,” Slayer told XBIZ. “We find that where adult retail stores are concerned, DVD still makes up 20+ percent of revenue on average — which surprises many people. As such, we still put a lot of thought into the content, box design and consistency of quality. The DVD racks in retail shops are smaller than ever; so, striking box cover photos and compelling, to-the-point titles are what help us stand out.”

Slayer added, “We have increased production and created many new sites, and this gives us a lot of content to release on DVD. We are currently releasing over 12 titles each month. We have actually seen growth in sales in the last year, and this is due to producing relevant and popular genres of content that the fans are searching for.”

Jules Jordan, founder and president of Jules Jordan Video, stressed that there is still a demand for adult DVDs in 2017 — although he noted that many brick-and-mortar stores are devoting more space to sex toys and pleasure products and less to DVDs.

“We are still maintaining the market share we’ve always had in retail,” Jordan told XBIZ. “However, more and more retailers are cutting back their DVD sections in favor of novelties and lingerie. We’ve always had a high wholesale price; so, we are still doing well globally with DVD sales. Digital downloads through subscription and VOD are constantly increasing; with fewer and fewer retailers supporting DVDs, it’s a more direct route for consumers to find what they’re looking for with the least amount of hassle. We’ve found that more and more collectors are going to sites such as DVD Empire when brick-and-mortar stores are closing or not supporting higher-end releases. Some retailers only are stocking $1 DVDs these days, thus categorizing them as a truck-stop-type outlet.”

Jordan added that Jules Jordan Video is prepared to offer downloads to customers who want downloads and DVDs to customers who still want DVDs.

“We’ve been very successful in marketing other brands in a DVD/movie format such as Blacked.com, Vixen.com, Tushy.com, Kink, Amateur Allure, Sins as well as from other producers on our label, Manuel Ferrara and Prince Yahshua,” Jordan explained. “Blacked, in particular, is bringing life back into the DVD market; Greg Lansky’s brands have defied the current marketplace … DVDs are for collectors.”

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