In a bold move that could have a significant affect on the Adult viewing habits of consumers, as well as increased public acceptance of Adult programming by mainstream corporate America, Adelphia Communications Corp. will begin offering hardcore pornography to its subscribers starting February 4.
The sexually explicit programming is being exclusively provided by Playboy Enterprises, according to Paul Jacobson, VP of Corporate Communications for Adelphia, and will be available to digital cable subscribers though their Video-on-Demand (VoD) service only. “We’ve been launching the VoD platform in many markets,” Jacobson told AVNOnline.com today, “It’s cable television VoD, so there’s a central server at our head end which then addresses the individual set top box with a specific video stream just to that box, so that a person can pause, fast-forward and rewind, that sort of thing.”
The roll out of this offering will be limited at first to certain geographic markets. “In terms of how many markets we’re doing this in,” said Jacobson, “I don’t think we have an answer to that yet. VoD is relatively new for the [cable] industry, and for Adelphia in particular, because we lagged other cable operators in rolling it out, so I think we’re testing it in a few locations right now. The Los Angeles area is one of them, and we may be testing it in a few places in the North East as well, but we haven’t said for sure where that’s going to be.”
For now, Adelphia will be the only major cable company in America to offer such content over its cable television platform, but odds are they will not be the last operator to bite the porn bullet, as customer demand and competition force their hand. According to Adelphia, they are simply reacting to the demands of the marketplace and the desires of their subscribers. “This is something that makes sense for us in the marketplace, something that customers want, and something our competition is doing, in the sense that triple-X is I believe available on at least one of the two satellite services,” said Jacobson.
No matter the type of programming, according to Jacobson, cable has certain advantages over distribution platforms, especially in terms of its malleability. ”One advantage cable has in the VoD environment is the ability to call up VoD instantly, whereas in the satellite environment it’s delivered on a linear basis, unless you have a DVR (digital video recorder) built in to your satellite set top box. But the advantage across all genres of programming that cable has these days is with VoD, where you can have both the DVR built in to your set top box and the ability to call up a wide catalogue of VoD programming.
“Then you fold in the fact that cable is also a platform that delivers high speed Internet and will soon be delivering telephony,” continued Jacobson, “and you see the perfect example of convergence going on. On the other side of the aisle, the telephone companies are seeing that as well, although with video they certainly lag the cable industry. Their network is just starting to get built out to be able to provide better video, but we are already able in a position to do that.
“The third player of course is satellite, and although they’ve taken a lot of market share in the basic video environment, I think it’s important to point out that cable lagged behind satellite for a while on the technology side, but now that cable has rebuilt its networks – for instance, 96 percent of Adelphia’s network has been rebuilt as sort of a broadband platform – cable is now able to offer a variety of different services.”
Consumer management, as in hands on control, is also an integral part of Adelphia Adult offering, according to Jacobson. “Another thing technology allows you to do is to provide the electronic gate-keeping necessary for those who aren’t interested in this content who automatically or accidentally stumble across it. And those who want to block it or eliminate it from the on-screen options, can do that too. So it’s just technology allowing us to provide a wide variety of different types of content for our customers. You can go to our Adelphia Website and there’s a whole section on parental controls.”
Adelphia, of course, is in an interesting corporate situation. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2002, and is now actively for sale. Jacobson demurred from making a connection between the new programming and any potential sale, but did say that the bigger picture dwarfs the relatively minor decision to harden their Adult offerings. “I couldn’t speculate on how this might affect the sale other than to say that the sale is operating at a different level in New York for the company as a whole, and this is simply one part of many, many programming activities that the company undertakes every day.
“We’re in new management here and the company has undergone a lot of turmoil in the last couple of years, and we’ve been working very hard while this Chapter 11 process moves forward to improve the day-to-day operations of the company, build up our networks, and expand programming.”
When asked whether the news of the hard-core programming, which was broken by the Los Angeles Times this morning, had resulted in an avalanche of phone calls either in support or condemnation, Jacobson said that nothing of the sort had occurred. “We’ve had a couple of followup calls from some media just wanting to confirm the Times story, but there has not been a major reaction of any kind. I think people recognize it for what it is.”
Business as usual.