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No, Pornhub Did Not Just Launch the Netflix of Porn

A Netflix for porn? That sounds irresistible — especially for online media trying to keep up their page-view counts late in the summer, when nothing is happening at all. That’s why dozens of outlets were eager to take the bait when Pornhub, a site known for hosting thousands of free porn clips, pitched them the Netflix-for-porn idea.

There’s only one problem: It’s a bogus story.

Pornhub did launch a premium tier this week, which offers users interested in that kind of fare ad-free HD content for $10 a month. The pricing is close to Netflix’s subscription plans, which range from $8 to $12 a month, but that’s where the similarity ends.

Paid subscriptions are nothing new in the world of adult entertainment. In fact, porn studios were some of the first businesses to get people to pay for content online, long before Netflix started streaming to its subscribers.

The makers of Pornhub aren’t new to this business model either. Pornhub is owned and operated by MindGeek. Few know this company by name, but it has quietly become a powerhouse in adult entertainment. In addition to Pornhub, it owns and operates a number of similar free porn websites, including Redtube and YouPorn.

All of these sites function as advertising funnels for MindGeek’s paid sites and services, of which there are many: Over the years, the company has acquired a whole catalog of adult entertainment studios and their web properties, including Digital Playground, Brazzers, Reality Kings and many others. The company even managed to take over Playboy’s more racy online video offerings from Hugh Hefner’s empire.

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All of these adult brands operate their own paid subscription services, and MindGeek makes money with all of them. Some sell their wares for $30 a month, some charge as little as $7.50. Pornhub’s premium tier is just one more site in the company’s adult empire, and coincidentally also only offers users clips from MindGeek-owned studios.

In other words: It’s just yet another repackaging of the same thing MindGeek has been offering users on dozens of sites already. Sure, the new Pornhub premium site may promise users exclusive clips — but that hardly makes it like Netflix, which has been investing billions of dollars in building up its content library, and hundreds of millions in building just one product, not dozens of sites with virtually identical products.

Still, there’s one way Pornhub is actually similar to Netflix. Just like Netflix, Pornhub does know how to strike a chord with the press. Be it by jumping on the data science train, or by announcing nonsensical sex toys that merely exist to make headlines, Pornhub has once and again managed to get its company’s name in the mainstream press.

And that’s really what this “Netflix for porn” story is — just another stunt to get free advertising.

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