Sex has been one of the silent drivers of technology for as long as I can recall. It might not get reported much, not least because many in the media would prefer to pretend it is not important and has no impact. But the truth is the adult industry has been a key player when it comes to the development and acceptance of technologies from the early days of the printing press, through to helping VHS displace the technically far superior Betamax format in the video wars all those years ago. Since then, sex has had a hand in getting DVD off the ground, developing ecommerce micro-payment and subscription mechanisms, and even the widespread popularity of the webcam driven website. It is no exaggeration, well OK perhaps a small one, to say that YouTube would not be here today if it were not for the work done by the adult industry yesterday.
Which is why, given that Sony has been bitten so badly once with the whole Betamax thing, I was so surprised when a friend and colleague turned me on to a revelation he picked up while attending the Adult Expo that (although you would not know it from the press coverage) runs at the same time as CES in Las Vegas. That revelation being that it appears Sony Corp has decided that its Sony DADC Global subsidiary, responsible for Blu-ray disc replication, will not duplicate ‘adult’ movies of a ‘certain rating’ or if they have not been certified by a local motion picture association.
It’s all a little vague, I have to admit, but the bottom line is that the sex industry can go somewhere else when it comes to the bulk production of Hi-Def blue movies. In his posting my colleague Simon recounts that the founder of adult film company Digital Playground movies has complained that this means none of the Blu-ray production plants in the US would duplicate titles for him. “He says the copying plants tell him Sony will revoke their licenses for Blu-ray if they go adult” Simon explains.
And when it comes to ‘going elsewhere’ there is only one choice while the HD format wars rage, and that is HD-DVD. Certainly everything that Digital Playground is replicating is now HD-DVD for example. The fact that Sony is looking like repeating one of the biggest blunders from its past, barring the adult movie industry from Betamax in pretty much the same manner was, I would argue, a catalyst in its failure to become the dominant format.
Don’t doubt the pulling power of porn in establishing a dominant format in the hearts and minds of consumers either. Last year in the US there were more than 7000 new adult movies distributed on DVD with sales worth something in the region of $3.6 billion. With that kind of exposure, it you will excuse the pun, it is hard to see how anyone could underestimate the clout that the adult market has. The battle of the gaming consoles is as nothing compared to this, believe me.
No matter how much the Blu-ray Disc Association deny any kind of porn prohibition, until and unless Sony change their longstanding policy towards the adult industry the truth is that is exactly what will happen. Given that Blu-ray render times are a couple of weeks longer than HD-DVD and the replication costs much higher as well, you would think that Sony and chums would need all the help they could get in establishing a broad commercial user base. Given that the PS3 costs so much more than the Xbox 360, and take up has been less than expected in both Japanese and US markets so far, you would have thought Sony could do with help getting ‘on side’ with consumers as well.