In the wake of recent media reports about the adult industry’s role in the high-definition format war, a Sony representative denied that the corporation is preventing adult producers from using its Blu-Ray disc format.
"There's no prohibition against adult content," Sony spokeswoman Lisa Gephardt said on Tuesday. "We don't tell people how they can use the licenses they get from the Blu-ray Disc Association."
Gephardt’s comments echo last week’s statement from the Blu-ray Disc Association, which announced that it "welcomes the participation of all companies interested in using and supporting the [Blu-ray] format, including those that represent the full spectrum of genres in the content industry."
At the 2007 AVN Adult Entertainment Expo, Digital Playground owner Joone told reporters that Blu-ray replication facilities had refused to handle his product for fear of having their licenses revoked by Sony. Joone’s comments led some media pundits to declare an early victory for HD-DVD over Blu-ray, citing the adult industry’s supposed role in VHS videotape’s triumph over the Sony-backed Betamax format.
Vivid Entertainment Group’s Debbie Does Dallas remake is the only adult title currently slated for release on Blu-ray. The Paul Thomas-directed feature will become the first X-rated movie to debut in standard DVD, HD-DVD and Blu-ray on March 27.
"The bottom line is that both Sony and Disney together are keeping adult away from Blu-ray," Vivid co-chairman Steven Hirsch told AVN. "Because we’re Vivid, we have been able to secure authoring and replication where other adult companies have not; and it was very difficult for us to find authoring and replication for Blu-ray. There are eight facilities that replicate Blu-ray, two of them owned by Sony, who will not replicate adult product in their facilities. Seven of the eight Blu-ray replicators have contracts with Disney – and in their Disney contracts, we have been told that it says you cannot replicate any adult product. Between the Sony facilities and the Disney-contracted replicators, 95 percent of all the Blu-ray replication facilities cannot do adult. For Sony to make these statements while monopolizing the replication of Blu-ray is disingenuous."
Joone offered a similar response to Sony’s statement. "Talk is cheap," he said. "I wish [Sony] would give us some guidance on where we can get replication, because I’ve exhausted every channel. The replicators’ words to me were: We can’t do adult, because Sony will pull our Blu-ray license. Everybody’s been pointing the finger at Sony; I would’ve bought the Disney policy as an excuse more than the Sony explanation."
"Blu-ray is a very expensive process – the investment for a replicator is 10 to 20 times the cost of HD-DVD," Joone continued. "These replicators are nowhere near capacity in their facilities – they have these machines that they paid millions for, and they’re not using them. I’m here to pay full price to get Blu-ray titles done; I went as far as saying, you guys don’t even have to do the silk printing on the disc, I’ll do the art somewhere else, so that internally your employees don’t have to see anything – even though our artwork is not very explicit or hardcore. But every disc stamper puts in an ID showing who stamped the disc, so later on, the replicators could be in trouble. As a replicator you’re in the biz of selling as much time on your machine as possible; their incentive is to pay for these multi-million dollar machines they’ve bought. Even the replication disc cost to me is three times as high as HD. I don’t think the Blu-ray facilities are going to get a lot of people knocking on the door – there’s not much demand, the market is brand-new, and it’s too expensive."
A Jan. 21 New York Times article questioned whether consumers are ready for hi-def porn, citing claims that the increased resolution reveals physical flaws best left unseen.
Joone told AVN that he isn’t worried about the imperfections revealed in HD. "We’re using the same techniques as Hollywood does to make its stars look good on screen," he said. "Hollywood has had to use crafts and tricks from lenses, filters and makeup all the way to post-production techniques to get the best image quality possible. This isn’t rocket science; people have been doing this with some of the biggest stars, with amazing results; with our HD adult titles, the skin is flawless, there are no blemishes – it looks great."
Wicked Pictures became the first studio to bring an adult HD-DVD to market with its December release of Jonathan Morgan’s Camp Cuddly Pines Power Tool Massacre. Wicked’s Jackie Ramos, who supervised the HD-DVD edition of Morgan’s sex-horror parody, told AVN that "HD-DVD has a great head start over Blu-ray; the fact that it’s easier and cheaper to produce really gives it an edge.
"We haven’t ruled out Blu-ray," Ramos added. "Right now, we undertook HD-DVD because it was the most obvious and easiest avenue for us to take. Should it become easier for us to pursue Blu-ray in the future, we will."
Despite HD-DVD’s early lead, there is not yet a clear winner in the format war.
"We’re going to look at the numbers; we’re in business to make money," said Vivid’s Hirsch. "We have four Blu-ray titles in the queue – as soon as I see the pre-order numbers we’ll make a decision moving forward. Since it’s much more expensive to author and replicate in Blu-ray than HD, as a result I think you’ll see the majority of adult guys going to HD-DVD. At some point, if Blu-ray gets enough players out there, you’ll see the costs come down significantly."
Although Joone told AVN that he could release the R-rated version of his porn blockbuster Pirates on Blu-ray, he has no immediate plans to do so. "We’re going to wait for the market to mature more," he said. "Our goal is to let the consumer decide how they want to buy and watch their material."