Consumers beginning to drive the HD market

  • Van Nuys (CA) – Blu-ray is gaining traction in the adult film industry: The format is still too expensive for the industry to be generally adopted, the director of “Pirates” told, but consumer demand and brisk PS3 sales are beginning to break down the production barriers created by the Blu-ray camp.

    How the times change: One year ago, there was no question which of the two high-def formats would dominate the adult film market. HD DVD was the chosen winner, mostly because of lower production cost and support provided to adult content producers.

    These two factors haven’t changed: The Blu-ray camp apparently is still uncomfortable with supporting adult film companies, we were told by Joone, co-founder of Digital Playground and director of “Pirates”, which is claimed to be the most expensive production of its kind to date.  Porn producers still don’t get support from the Blu-ray camp and Blu-ray production remains outrageously expensive: “One year ago, it was very difficult to find anyone to replicate Blu-ray discs. Now there are more independent manufacturers, which brought down the [replication] cost by 50%. But Blu-ray is still three to four times more expensive than HD DVD,” Joone said.


    What has dramatically changed, however, is the fact, that there have been enough sales of HD players to allow the consumer to drive the content market and not so much movie studios or the HD camps. “We are getting a lot of customers who are asking for Blu-ray,” Joone said. “There have been a lot of emails asking for Blu-ray. This and the fact that a lot of Playstation 3s are going out into the market have been important factors for us to decide to [release Pirates on Blu-ray].”

    “In fact,” he said, “the PS3 is the driving force behind Blu-ray right now.”

    Interestingly, the HD DVD add-on drive for the Xbox 360 does not have the same effect, Joone noted. “The difference really is that when you buy a PS3, the Blu-ray drive is already there. With the Xbox it is a separate drive and when you look at the price of a standalone HD DVD player the Xbox [HD DVD drive] is too expensive.”

    But while the PS3 is impacting business decision at Digital Playground, Joone does not believe that the adult film industry is switching to Blu-ray completely. “Only the really big stories are going to be able to get into Blu-ray because of the cost factor. There are certain costs which will never come down, such as Sony’s AACS encryption. You have to pay Sony the flat fee regardless.” He added that DVD sales in the adult film industry are down about 30% year-over-year, which means that there is less cash to invest into Blu-ray.

    Joone noted that Digital Playground does not intend to drop HD DVD: While he said  that he considers Blu-ray “more future proof because of the format’s capacity advantage,” he told us that he is “seeing strong sales” from both sides. “Until we see one format diminish considerably to the point where it does not make business sense anymore, we will be supporting both formats.” Digital Playground currently sells 22 HD DVD titles.

    The adult film industry always has been considered to be a bit ahead of the general movie industry in terms of technology adoption and that appears to be true for the HD age once again. Joone noted that about one third of Digital Playground sales are now in HD, despite the fact that HD versions are considerably more expensive. While a DVD movie may cost $24.99 in retail the same movie is priced at $49.99 in a high-def version. “We are getting the more higher-end of users,” Joone said. “These are people who own the big HD sets, which means that they are looking for high quality content. We charge more for it and they do not mind paying for it.”

    He believes the market has quickly matured to adopt HD. “Last year, the distributors were trying to push HD into the market; this, it is the consumer who is asking for it. Once they see programming in HD, they never want to go back, whether it is a sporting event or a movie. You just don’t want to watch standard definition content anymore.”