It was seven years ago, when Scott Coffman approached several potential investors with the idea for an online adult theater, initially he was turned away empty-handed.
“I just started asking people for money, and of the 200 people I asked, 199 said I was crazy and that they were not putting any money into this far-fetched scheme I had,” Coffman recalls with a laugh. “I didn’t even have a product. I was like, ‘One day, you’ll be able to watch movies on your computer, and we’re going to be the company that’s streaming those movies. And people are going to pay us, so give me money.’ And they were, like, ‘No.’”
Luckily, the 200th person believed in Coffman’s vision and agreed to help fund his fledgling project, and the South Carolina-based Adult Entertainment Broadcast Network launched in 1999—to less-than-stellar returns. “We lost money right off the bat,” Coffman confesses. “We saw [the potential] on the Internet, and we said, ‘People are going to watch this,’ but that was back when there was a very small amount of broadband users. I spent everyone’s money without making anything, and I had to go back to all these guys and get them to give me more.”
Coffman points to the unpredictability of an untested model for the site’s early woes. “We were creating how we were going to deliver the content; we were creating how we were going to pay the manufacturers,” he continues. “There was nobody doing what we were doing when we started. We created the blueprint.” After joining forces with the immensely popular Kara’s Adult Playground, AEBN quickly took a turn for the better as a result of the cross-promotion, and since has become one of the industry’s most widely recognized models for streaming adult content, boasting millions of pay-per-view users.
Coffman’s “long, strange trip” into the world of online adult entertainment had begun only a few years earlier. An aspiring stockbroker with a degree in economics, he spent the beginning part of his career “trying to create ideas and inventions or ways to make money.” After a brief stint as a restaurateur proved fruitless, Coffman turned to other methods of income. Noticing several ads for strip clubs and adult stores in the back of city weeklies, Coffman soon launched his own magazine devoted strictly to advertising those businesses and other adult services. He set up his own online store, offering video titles that he advertised in his own magazine, and immediately realized the potential in launching an online theater. As he recalls, “There were way more companies that were making movies, but I looked at them and went, ‘They know what they’re doing within that model, but I want to go a different route.’”
While many copycats have since come and gone, AEBN has excelled, earning a solid reputation within the industry for making affiliates happy. “Right off the bat, we started off expecting to be around for a long time—not to cash the money and get out quickly,” Coffman says. “I think what has contributed to our longevity is that we’re a company that does what we say. We don’t promise you the world, but people know that we’re trustworthy, we pay on time, and we try to help out in any way we can. We built relationships with these companies early on who have stuck with us.”
Coffman also points to the company’s quickness in capitalizing upon mainstream trends as a reason for AEBN’s success. Having successfully launched adult industry online networking community xPeeps.com and its gay sister site, qPeeps.com, AEBN soon will introduce several other projects—including PornoTube.com, an amateur-friendly content site built on the popular YouTube model. “We’re a very innovative company,” Coffman boasts. “We work as a team to improve little things on our product. Every time there’s an innovation, we’re going to be right there to make our product better, to give affiliates better quality.”
Then again, it doesn’t hurt that AEBN’s streaming theater model provides an excellent opportunity for studios to gain additional exposure. “I think the biggest thing that we do is that we are a marketing arm for manufacturers,” Coffman says. “When we started, all the money was in making and selling hard copy, and we said, ‘Instead of you going out and doing all this marketing, let us do it. We’ll build the affiliates; we’ll build the sites; we’ll get all the customers, and we’ll pay you a percentage of the sales.’ That’s where we started, and that’s still where our major alliance is. Where I’ve got this huge company that just does nothing but one thing, most of the manufacturers are great at making movies. And we are a great resource to market their product.”
Pictured: Scott Coffman