The New Television: Sex and the new TV

Dec 9, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Nicholas Steele, the director of “Sex Spell” and “Whispering Hearts,” says that high-definition TV could be the best thing to happen to the adult industry since Viagra.
“When you’re dealing with skin tones and bodies and things like that, you want it to look nice,” said Steele, who has made 23 X-rated films in HDTV. “When a guy is sitting down with his lady, quality matters. HDTV will make a huge difference [in pay-per-view buy rates].”
Cable and satellite operators are currently not offering adult films in HDTV, but the flesh industry is getting ready. Steele began filming in HDTV in August 2001 (Yes, that means he’s made 23 films in 15 months; directors in this business do not have the luxury of a Kubrickian schedule) and several other adult auteurs are following his path.
“Europe is going to start broadcasting adult films in HDTV in the next few months,” said Steele, who recently made two HDTV adult films in one week. “It won’t be long before they come calling in the United States. I’m setting myself up for the future.”
It should come as no surprise that the adult industry will benefit from the launch of a new TV technology. Both home video and cable TV did well in the early days in part because people discovered they could watch mature movies in the privacy of their homes. Adult channels also generated huge subscription fees from satellite TV viewers in the 1980s and early 1990s.
But emerging technologies such as HDTV and video-on-demand could give the adult industry its biggest boost in years. Cable and satellite operators have quietly acknowledged that on-demand adult services could generate unprecedented income. In fact, some cable operators, including Comcast and Insight, have been using adult on-demand to help pay for their VOD upgrades.
Steve Heeb, VP of product and business development for Comcast, the nation’s biggest cable operator with 22 million viewers, told an industry conference in August that adult VOD buy rates have been significantly higher than traditional adult pay-per-view.
Why? Well, I’ll spare you the psychological discussion of why people watch an adult film, but the ability to see one instantaneously dramatically increases usage.
“There’s no question that adult VOD revenue is important to the overall deployment of VOD,” Heeb told attendees.
Of course, you won’t see on-demand skin being promoted in your local cable guide any time soon. City officials, who regulate cable TV franchises, would likely frown at a marketing campaign that alerted their constituents that they could watch the adventures of Wendy Whoppers without waiting. However, if you’ll forgive the pun, both cable and satellite operators are in bed with the adult industry and they’re not getting out.
Sex sells?
The successful marriage of adult material and new technology could be explained by the fact that we are a sex-obsessed nation. Put anything about sex on television, online or in print (even a column titled `”’) and you will get an audience. But I think there’s more going on here. There’s a reason that sexual content is particularly successful in the early stages of a new technology.
You have to have a basic need met for people to get over their natural fear of anything new, particularly something as intimidating as new technology. It could be sex (home video and cable TV allowed you to watch adult films without having to go to a sleazy theater), hunger (the microwave was a faster avenue to your dinner) or security (the Palm Pilot gave you peace of mind that you had everything under control at home and the office).
If the new technology promises to meet a basic need, we will give it a chance. Consequently, the “basic need” features are more likely to be successful in the early stages. And those are the features that generate word of mouth, which gets the product or technology in the home in the first place.
With that in mind, struggling Interactive TV companies might consider offering sex-based services to get a foothold in the United States. For instance, in England, where ITV has a bigger audience, the Telewest cable service runs a successful interactive dating service. The ability to reach out and touch someone via your TV could persuade many Americans to give Interactive TV a chance.
Of course, for an adult entrepreneur such as Nicholas Steele, that kind of thinking only makes sense.
“It’s all about making money,” he said.
Phillip Swann is president and publisher of TVPredictions.com. He can be reached at swann@tvpredictions.com.