Girlfriends Films Teams With AbbyWinters for 1st Membership Site

LOS ANGELES — Girlfriends Films has finalized perhaps the most significant deal in its 10-year history, announcing it will partner with Abby Winters for its highly anticipated membership site.

The agreement is the culmination of several months of work and literally years of research and planning, Dan O’Connell, the founder and president of Girlfriends Films told XBIZ in an exclusive interview.

“We were approached by quite a few people who wanted to build and host our membership site, and we listened to a number of proposals,” O’Connell explained. “Abby Winters came with a great deal of experience running one of the top adult membership sites in the world, and they are a very close match for us in terms of work ethic, integrity and professionalism. 

O’Connell continued, “It’s very important to Girlfriends Films to be partnered with someone who is committed to giving the customer the best experience. The website always gets the highest ratings in terms of customer satisfaction. That factor rated very highly when we made our decision.”

The Amsterdam-based launched in 2000 and has since built a loyal worldwide following with its trademark style of showcasing real amateur talent. CEO Garion Hall told XBIZ the site’s success is due to its “uniqueness.”

“Very few other sites show real amateurs with no makeup, no body modifications and natural pubic hair — showing their real personality,” Hall said. “Coupled with an interactive site design, we have a thriving and supportive community.”

One of the main reasons the deal is special is that is not in the business of building membership sites, said Trieu Hoang, the vice president of business development for Abby Winters.

“Girlfriends Films is the first membership site we’ve built using our in-house content management system,” Hoang said. “We’ve enjoyed building Girlfriends Films’ membership site so much that we wanted to share some insights at the recent Barcelona Summit. Garion’s presentation on how to make a membership site sexy and profitable was standing-room-only.

“I guess the interesting question now is whether we would consider building membership sites for others? We’re unsure, because it is a huge responsibility. This is someone else’s business and livelihood. At the end of the day, it’ll depend on the relationship, because business is about relationships.”

When it came down to deciding to align with GFF, the Abby Winters execs said there was real chemistry.

“We like each other. There’s a mutual appreciation and respect of each other’s content and businesses. Both companies share similar values,” Hoang said. 

“… When Girlfriends Films asked us about how to run a successful membership site, we were happy to help a mate. The more we talked about a Girlfriends Films membership site it just made sense for us to work together. The idea of two major brands — one from the web and the other from the DVD segments was too great an opportunity to resist.”

Hall remarked, “I was excited when Trieu mentioned in passing that he met with the folks from Girlfriends Films. Their material is so unique and inspiring, so I was proud to be associated with them. Having no membership site made us think that perhaps we could help them.”

Indeed, Girlfriends Films took its time to carefully consider all its options regarding the move. O’Connell and GFF vice president Moose have been working closely with Hall and Hoang on everything from the look and feel of the site to the functionality and special features. With nearly 10 years of lesbian scenes in the GFF library, the content has been the easy part.

“Garion and Trieu have been great to work with,” O’Connell said. “We’ve been video-conferencing with them on a regular basis and they’ve been very patient in taking us through the many steps involved in building a site and finally getting it online. There have been a number of considerations throughout the build and although it has been more work than we anticipated, I am grateful to be partnered with people who pay attention to every detail. I can see these small details will make a big difference to the end user. The result will reflect our company philosophy and dedication to our fans and members.”

GFF enters the deal with the largest library of lesbian-themed, video content in the world. In 2010 alone, the company produced, marketed and distributed 60 movies, maintaining a brisk release schedule of five titles per month. It has continued with that pace in 2011 in addition to preparing for its major online rollout.

“Our work on the site goes back to before we even selected our partner,” O’Connell said. “Girlfriends Films has always been primarily a DVD company, and we had to attend quite a few internet conferences to figure out the many ins and outs of the web side of the business. Very early on in the process we also started readying our content, organizing it, and shooting additional scenes that will appear exclusively on the website. 

“Looking at a lot of other websites has played a large part in determining what we have to do to become one of the tops in the internet business.”

Hoang said that one of the main keys is staying true to your niche online. “Providing niche content allows a membership site to maintain higher margins and be under less downward price pressure,” he said.

Hall added, “It’s also difficult, while having broad content types, to do any one content type thoroughly enough to satisfy many customers. We strongly believe in ‘nichifying,’ where adult sites drill down very deep and explore a niche thoroughly. Of course, people who are not a fan of that niche will never buy. But if they are a fan, they pay more and stay longer because they are getting exactly what they need.”

If Girlfriends’ ongoing success with its video-on-demand endeavors with is any indication, the membership site figures to be well-received.

“Of the 2,300 studios represents, Girlfriends Films has been the top-ranked studio consistently on for the past four years, so we know our story- and seduction-based girl/girl content has a viable and thriving market on the web,” O’Connell reasoned, noting that GFF by no means intends to abandon what has gotten the company this far.

“We will remain fully committed to DVD production, distribution and, in particular, our network of distributors and stores,” the founder said. “We’ll continue to release five DVDs with exclusive new content every month. DVD sales have been the livelihood of Girlfriends Films since our first day.  It would be foolish to de-emphasize it, especially as I believe DVD’s will remain our biggest revenue source and the most important part of our business.” 

Widely considered a pioneer in the modern lesbian genre, Girlfriends has built its reputation on creating original, authentic lesbian content featuring a wide variety of models. The company has successfully increased its following through its vibrant online community forum. And the buzz surrounding Girlfriends Films’ membership site has been something O’Connell did not expect.

“Personally, I’ve found that taking on big projects and the anticipation of their success has always been one of the most exciting and gratifying parts of running a business, and getting a website going this year was my big carrot in 2010,” O’Connell said. “We’ve put in hundreds of hours of work on the site and it is very exciting to be closing in on the day when we can sign up our first members.

“I know there are a lot of websites vying for customers and we plan on providing some extras, such as two weekly talk shows. One show will concentrate on interviews with models and other personalities, and the second show will focus on the content to be released over the following week.”

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