Thursday, January 4, 2007

Are Sex Sales Slipping?

In the New York Times, Indications of a Slowdown in Sex Entertainment Trade by David Cay Johnston, a slowdown in the adult industry growth has been noted:

The sex-related entertainment business grew in 2006 by just 2.4 percent, roughly the rate of inflation, to just under $13 billion, according to Paul Fishbein, president of the AVN Media Network, which publishes five trade magazines and runs industry conferences.

Jerry Ropelato, an opponent of the industry who owns the Web site, gave a slightly smaller estimate of the size of the business, about $12 billion.

The slowdown is being attributed to a few things:

* The effects of the Internet on traditional industry sales.

Not only in the competition factor, but in the inability to obtain accurate numbers from an area of industry which is mainly privately owned. So if, as many postulate, the Internet is seeing growth in adult sales, these numbers/dollars are not added up into the Sex Entertainment Trade column.

* Aging Americans.

The article says that the Census Bureau "estimates that the average age of Americans last year was 36, up from 30 in 1980, when the industry was growing rapidly in the wake of favorable Supreme Court decisions, fewer police raids and easy access to movies through the technology of videocassettes, which were new then."

I'm not certain there is a correlation between the aging of our citizenry and the Supreme Court rulings & Bush's administration policies... It might be more fair and accurate to state that given the current political climate less folks are willing to publicly declare their use and therefore make more purchases 'on the sly' via the Internet.

Then again, according to the article the dance club business is going strong: "The industry’s one publicly traded concern, Rick’s Cabaret, which runs dance clubs in seven cities, said same-store sales in its fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 were up 25.1 percent over the previous year."

But it still begs the point of private purchase and viewing of materials. Less DVD purchases and rentals, even less cable offerings; go for the ultra secret pay-per-view or website membership. Not only more discreet for the family but the government and neighbors as well. Perhaps if these Internet numbers were known we'd find that there's no slowdown, just a shift in product.

Steven Hirsch, one of three owners of the Vivid Entertainment Group, agrees with me. He (and other industry executives) believe "the ways that Americans get pornography are changing, with sales of videos and magazines in decline, while sex-related entertainment over cable television and Internet streaming is growing quickly."

"Right now, DVD is going down faster than video-on-demand is ramping up; it is just a lag in technologies," Mr. Hirsch said, not a fundamental easing in demand.

Some proof of this also lies in international sales.

Outside the United States, the fastest growth is in sex videos and images sent to cellphone viewing screens, Mr. Fishbein and others said.

In the US, none of the cellphone companies cooperate with the adult industry which limits sales -- which are estimated at just $39 million already. Currently, technological fixes are required to use such cellphone smut, which would likely be easily adopted by more hip younger consumers -- if cellphone companies would work with the industry or if the technology can be more simplified, the numbers/dollars would increase.

It's also interesting to note that while Americans may be aging, our interest in porn isn't decreasing: hard-core movies featuring women in their 30s into their 70s was "the one area of huge growth."

It was also noted that there "was big growth in sales of sex toys to women." (I just love reading that!)

Overall, if you ask Gracie, she sees no slowdown; it's just a shift. If the Internet shifts paradigms, why not sales figures?

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