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Playboy, Out of the Nudity Biz, Leans Into Lifestyle and Scripted Shows for Men

Slate of a dozen new shows includes comedies, docu-series and food, tech and gaming series

Playboy, after abandoning a six-decade brand legacy built largely on pictures of naked women, is pitching itself to Madison Avenue as a vibrant digital purveyor of entertainment and journalism for a huge millennial male audience.

The company, which claims to reach more than 150 million consumers per month online, on social media and in print, unveiled a slate of a dozen new shows set to debut starting this summer. Those include docu-series, three scripted comedies and lifestyle series about food, tech and gaming, and a talk show hosted by Indian-American jewelry designer and actor Waris Ahluwalia.

Playboy announced the new programming Friday at its first Digital Content NewFronts at Skylight Modern in midtown Manhattan. The majority of the company’s revenue is now from digital, and that’s led by video, execs said.

“We’re an aspirational brand and have been a vanguard for exploration, all the while giving a voice to provocative opinions,” Playboy Enterprises CEO Scott Flanders said. “Now, with the debut of our original video slate, we’re continuing to usher in a new era of Playboy.”

In addition to the lineup of new shows, Playboy announced the formation of Playboy Studios, an in-house branded-content studio headed by deputy editor and style maven Hugh Garvey.

“We’ve spent a lot of time and resources transforming Playboy into a mainstream, digitally focused lifestyle brand,” said Phillip Morelock, Playboy’s chief digital officer. He said Playboy’s digital audience is 80% millennial, and in the past year the average age of website’s visitors dropped from 47 to 30.

Playboy no longer trades in nudity — it removed nude photos from its website in 2014, and published its last magazine with nude pictorials with the January/February 2016 issue, featuring Pamela Anderson — bowing to the reality that it can’t compete with Internet porn. But the 63-year-old brand still encompasses sexually charged images of women in states of undress, as exemplified by recent mag covers in the “post-nudity” era:

 

Playboy’s new series for the 2016-17 season include:

  • “House of Waris”: Waris Ahluwalia, known for his roles in Wes Anderson films, hosts a regular dinner party with interesting luminaries. The first episode features Natasha Lyonne (“Orange Is the New Black”), Kim Gordon of the band Sonic Youth), comedian Horatio Sanz (formerly with “Saturday Night Live”) and filmmaker Liz Goldwyn.
  • “The Life by Playboy”: An inside look at the process of editing the lifestyle section of Playboy magazine.
  • “Tech 360”: Tech blogger Jon Rettinger and model/gamer Amy Willerton take audiences on a full-fledged tour of the most hallowed tech destinations. Tech 360 is Playboy’s first series shot in virtual reality.
  • “Meccas”: Docu-series about world’s most sought-after destinations, ranging from the best surfing spot to the top vineyard.
  • “Coaching Trees (Chef Edition)”: Profiles of top chefs, with first episode detailing how chef and restaurateur Thomas Keller spawned a movement of perfectionist cooking from French cuisine to hamburgers and fried chicken.
  • “What The Food?!”: Molecular gastronomist Wylie Dufresne (aka WD50) and molecular mixologist Dave Arnold (of NYC bar Booker and Dax) star in this food series that deconstructs celebrities’ favorite foods.
  • “Dinner Date with Furious Pete”: Show starring Peter Czerwinski, aka Furious Pete with nearly 3 million YouTube subscribers, showcases his fitness regimen and competitive eating skills, as Pete informs viewers how to cook impressive yet easy meals for their dates, and his female friends give him feedback on both his food and dating skills.
  • “The Booze Room”: Weekly comedy news show about drinking, featuring comedian Josh Wolf (“Chelsea Lately”) and mixologist Alex Day (Death & Co.).
  • “Sprout”: Scripted comedy about Chris Cooper, an overweight, foul-mouthed, chain-smoking Hollywood type that satirizes L.A. culture, featuring cameos by actors and social media stars.
  • “Fronting”: Comedy series featuring Facebook and Vine star Jon Paul Piques, about a group of misfits running a sports agency together.
  • “Robots Are Hard”: Set three years in the future, scripted comedy series follows the brilliant engineers at an artificial-intelligence robotics company, created by Aaron Shore (“The Office”) and Jonathon Magnum (“Whose Line Is It Anyway?”).
  • “Strangeplay with Mr. Sark”: Series hosted by YouTube gamer Mr. Sark explores the world of gaming through skits, reenactments and game play commentary.

Playboy also is bringing back two existing shows: “Journalista,” a docu-series in which 25-year-old Yoonj Kim delves into the worlds of sex, drugs and alternative lifestyles, and “Gamer Next Door,” hosted by gamer and 2012 Playmate Pamela Horton, featuring news, game previews and interviews with influencers in the gaming community.

Pictured above: “Dinner Date with Furious Pete” starring Peter Czerwinski

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