How Big is the Adult Industry?

While everyone banters about the millions of dollars in sales in the adult content industry, the real figures are probably even higher. Some estimates say in the neighborhood of four billion, while other media claim it is closer to fourteen billion. But how does anyone really know? Companies that promote adult material are not always public enterprises, they are private and have no reason to disclose their real figures. Unless each company discloses their true revenue numbers, estimates may mean nothing in the total scheme of the adult entertainment business. What is known, though, if you take into account all aspects of adult entertainment including sex toys, DVDs, videos, webcams, niche porn sites, risqué lingerie, tubes, dating, escorts and anything else that is classified as X-rated, the total revenues are astronomical. Still, it should be noteworthy to examine the question, “how big is the adult industry?”

While we may not know the exact numbers regarding the revenues and profits in the adult industry, we do know that the content is no longer “underground”. Ever since Hugh Hefner launched Playboy Magazine in 1953, there has been a trend to make girlie pics and sex more entertaining, and more mainstream. Some have even said that Hefner was a product of his own demise, and that could be true given the fact that he made nudity and sex more acceptable in the media. He made it okay to write about fantasies and show what men were thinking. In today’s terms, his material was rather soft-core, but back then, it made a statement about society, especially when his first fifty-thousand copies sold out so quickly. From there, many publishers tried to copy and duplicate his success. Today, the adult industry goes beyond the boundaries of what the original porn magazine started.

Further, the adult industry operates in some of the same ways as mainstream services and products. Conferences, seminars and trade shows are high profile events now and participants can mingle in public without recriminations. It is completely respectable to attend an adult oriented trade show. Take for example, the XBIZ EU, a three-day conference held in September in London. It is a huge event, not only comprising owners of adult sites, but also, traffic brokers, internet service providers, software solution firms, and companies that specialize in digital media. These entrepreneurs look like regular business people and are not the seedy characters that the public often conjures up in their minds.

Another big event held each year in Las Vegas is called the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo, and for the last twenty-nine years, awards for the best in the industry are handed out. The Adult Video News Awards are quite prestigious and the 2012 gala is slated for January 22 at the Hard Rock Hotel. The 2011 event was held at the Palms.

The emergence of the triple (.XXX) domain names in 2011 may suggest that the market is expanding. Granted, some companies, that are already in business, will only register this extension to protect their brands, at the same time, opening up another TLD can only mean more opportunities. Furthermore, in early 2011, the first 3D porn film was released in Hong Kong. Called “3D Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy”, the movie actually exceeded Avatar’s record for the highest single day box office receipts. It would seem that adult movies still have the pull as long as new technologies show the same sex scenes, but in a new and exciting way, never before seen.

Despite all the efforts to make the industry more respectable, some companies have taken a hit financially in recent years. Private Media Group, a company that has operated in the adult industry for close to fifty years has seen its stock prices drop from a high ten dollars to a low twenty-two cents. The company trades on NASDAQ under the symbol “PRVT”. Erotic DVDs are losing ground, too, but this could be due to the amount of porn on the internet, as opposed to buying a DVD to keep at home. The business may not be losing dollars as much as it is shifting to a different medium.

One company that has done interviews and agreed to talk about revenues, admittedly quite coyly, perhaps, is Manwin Holding SARL, one of the major players in adult. The company is actually registered in Luxembourg City, Luxembourg by owner Fabian Thylmann, but the majority of the employees work out of the office in Montreal, Canada. Although he would not give exact figures, in various interviews, he indicated that in a year period 2009-2010, his company’s earnings before taxes rose an incredible forty percent. He continues adding sites to his network and is credited with the highest volume in mobile porn directing a whopping five million visitors per day.

Experts in the adult industry, those making the millions of dollars, insist that the industry is growing. Many critics say it is not because of the free content rife on the internet. The industry counters by saying that those that are watching free content weren’t customers to being with. In other words, before free content was available, they just weren’t paying for porn in any way, so they are not lost customers. They argue that the paying customers are looking for something new and are more than happy to hand over their hard earned dollars when a new way of distributing adult content is available. That is why camera sites, dating and amateurs do so well.

Indeed, the public may never know conclusively how big is the adult industry. One thing is for sure, though, it is not slowing down anytime soon. If new companies like Manwin can jump into the picture and move forward to become moguls in the field, then it means that plenty of opportunity still exists. While the old ways of doing business, like those methods pioneered by Hugh Hefner of Playboy and Larry Flynt of Hustler, may not be so influential or even profitable, there are definitely up-and-coming businesses, individuals and technologies to satisfy the needs for pornographic material.