Analysis

Special Report: All Eyes on 4K

High Resolution Smut

By: Sam Reynolds

Old lore says that the pornography business can make or break video formats. After all, it was the smut business that gave VHS the victory over Betamax and Blu-Ray the win over HD DVD.

But can porn make 4K go mainstream?

As pornography is primarily distributed via the internet, budgeting bandwidth is going to be a big problem. Huccio, the first website to enter the business last December, found itself without a viable means to deliver its extra-large products. Until HVEC was rolled out with mainstream support this year, the company found itself forced to deliver its content via H264 files. These were too big and bulky to stream, so users had to download them individually — an anachronism compared to the delivery methods for lower-resolution content.

While Huccio can now count competitor Pink Visual as another entrant into the ultra-high resolution smut business, a January report from XBIZ, an adult entertainment industry group and consultancy, revealed that the industry as a whole is skeptical that the return on investment will materialize from adopting the high resolution.

According to the poll, which surveyed the group’s 157 members, 18% said that 4K would not revitalize the porn business, while 44% believe the format won’t impact the industry and spur more porn consumption and 39% say it is too early to tell.

In the report, industry titans quoted have a wide range of reasons for being hesitant about adopting the standard. With the rise of tube sites facilitating piracy, many in the business have seen their profit margins vanish over the last half-decade. Fetish site proprietor Peter Acworth, who owns and operates Kink.com, says his company simply can’t afford to make the jump.

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“Given the significant overhead of 4K — more powerful editing stations, more costly storage, bandwidth costs, etc. — I can’t see us shooting in 4K soon,” he is quoted as saying in the report.

However one major porn studio is making a big bet on 4K, believing that customers will pay a substantial premium for the content. Andreas Hronopoulos, Naughty America’s CEO, said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal that he believes his customers will pay $10 premium over the $24.95 per month his company charges for HD content. While Hronopoulos is enthusiastic about the revenue potential from the high-res format, he also admitted that the investment his company made in the required infrastructure was “enough to sink the company” (reports say the investment was close to $1-million) should it not take off.  He also says he understands the skepticism others in the industry may have for the format.

“I think the rest of the industry sees it as a, ‘Oh, do we need to spend the money? Should we not spend the money?’” Hronopoulos said, stating that the terabyte per half-hour of content is something of a bandwidth sticker shock.

Wait and see

In the case of 4K and the porn business, it might be that the profit-starved industry’s trepidation for the high-resolution format would nullify the adage that the porn business makes or breaks formats. With a few exceptions, the business itself is still studying the situation to determine if the investment is itself worthwhile. But as it struggles to compete with profit-killing piracy, it may be that the porn industry waits for 4K itself to be mainstream before taking the plunge.