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Porn leaving hotel rooms, is Hollywood next?

31 Jan

With all the hubbub over usage-based internet billing last week, I almost lost another major story – as it pertains to my book, anyway – in the shuffle. The Marriott hotel chain has announced that, because of declining revenue, it is pulling porn from its in-room pay-per-view offerings.

The media picked up on a couple of interesting angles to this story. Many connected the move with the likelihood that Mitt Romney is once again going to run for U.S. president. Romney recently resigned from the hotel chain’s board to prepare for his run. He took heat, especially from Mormons, in the previous election for not pushing Marriott to get rid of the in-room porn, so some are saying both of these moves will remove that particular albatross.

The more interesting angle, I think, is what the Daily Mail calls “the iPad effect” or what I call “BYOP,” or bring your own porn. Hotel chains are thinking twice about offering adult content in rooms because people are bringing their own, either pre-loaded on their iPads or smartphones, or they’re accessing it online in the room through those devices. In both situations, the hotel is getting cut out of the equation, so ultimately it’s a good PR move to get rid of the content.

We’ve been hearing for the past couple of years how the porn industry has been hurting because of free online content and piracy – you can read all about it in my recent AskMen.com feature – but we’re only just now getting a little more illumination on what has been a dirty little secret. Porn piracy doesn’t hurt just the porn business – it hurts mainstream businesses too, with hotel chains and cable companies at the top of the list. Anyone who used to make money from the old porn system is seeing that situation evaporate quickly.

Amazingly, you can tie this back to usage-based internet billing. I wouldn’t feel too badly for those cable companies, especially Canadian ones, because if they’re losing money from a decline in pay-per-view porn, they stand to recoup it from internet usage. Despite what seems to be conventional wisdom, porn is still a major part of the internet and those free sites – the likes of YouPorn and RedTube – are among the highest trafficked out there (both are within the top 150 in Alexa rankings). The more people watch those sites, the more they go over their monthly caps and the more revenue the internet companies get.

That notwithstanding, many people also forget that ISPs have been the biggest beneficiaries of porn’s move to the internet. As detailed in Sex, Bombs and Burgers, better access to adult content (as well as file-sharing) has been a major reason for why people upgraded their dial-up internet connections to high-speed. They are a huge part of the dirty little secret.

But to get back to the hotel issue, the iPad effect also extends to mainstream movies. Once again, porn is in the vanguard – if hotels are moving to drop it because people are bringing their own, how long until they drop pay-per-view movies entirely? After all, if you can bring Debbie Does Dallas Part XXIX loaded on your laptop, surely you can also bring Inception, Toy Story 3 or the complete latest season of Dexter. Put another way, why would you watch television on the TV in your room when you can fire up Netflix or Hulu instead? Indeed, one analyst figures pay-per-view revenue overall has shrunk about 39 per cent since 2000.

The hotel chains have been trying to keep this pay-per-view business viable by adding larger flat-screen TVs to rooms and by moving the release windows of movies up. Many of the hotels I’ve been in recently have had movies on offer that are still in theatres.

They’re sort of trying to replicate the whole movie-going experience in the room, albeit on a smaller scale. I’m not so sure that’s a good strategy, though, because the price of the lesser experience is roughly the same as the full one. If you’re going to pay $15 to see a movie, who wants to watch it on a small screen in their room?

Given that, it seems the overall death of in-room pay-per-view is inevitable.

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Posted by on January 31, 2011 in internet, ipad, sex

 

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