Mark Graff learned a costly lesson this year when he failed to get cable operators to take his pay-per-view porno channel Blu-TV: To succeed, you gotta have a brand.
Seeking a brand to which he could tie his porn pics, Graff stumbled upon three: Playgirl, High Society and Cheri.
These long-established monthly print magazines are part of 30-year-old publisher Blue Horizon Media, which has signed a joint venture with Graff to create a company called Trans Digital Media.
Venture will start pitching cable networks on Playgirl TV, a 24-hour PPV network to be available in three-hour blocks of programming. Porno movies will be the lure, but Trans Digital plans to commission original material like interviews, behind-the-scenes features and on-air hosts doing intros.
High Society and Cheri won’t be 24-hour networks; they’ll go out as video-on-demand services made up of 90 minutes a week of fresh material, which viewers can buy for $11.95 — a stiff price because the porno movies will not get much editing. Graff calls the versions of porno movies on High Society and Cheri “double X-rated” and the Playgirl product (which will also have a VOD platform) as slightly tamer, or “X and a half.” Unedited hardcore gets the triple-X designation. His target date for launching the three services is mid-March.
No cable operators have signed up yet, but Graff said he’s offering one of the most operator-friendly deals in the history of cable: The operator pays Trans Digital zero license fees and collects 90¢ on every dollar ponied up by the subscriber. With a typical pay service, the cable system gets less than 50¢ of every dollar and has to pay penalties if it doesn’t reach a specific number of subscribers.
“Video-on-demand is where Graff really stands a chance to make money,” said Dennis McAlpine, a media analyst and head of McAlpine Associates. In a recent report on New Frontier Media, which transmits six adult PPV networks, McAlpine recommended the stock, at least in part because of the “higher-than-expected rollout” of its VOD service on cable operators like Comcast.
About 10 million homes can receive VOD; that figure is likely to grow dramatically over the next few years as operators continue to upgrade their systems.
Graff envisions Playgirl as potentially the first PPV service to capture large numbers of gay men, who are avid buyers of the magazine because it features lots of buff naked men. Gay porno is still taboo on American cable systems, Graff says, “so there’ll be no man-on-man sexual intercourse in the Playgirl films.”