Porn Industry Embraces Web Downloads

GENERIC Internet pornography web
CBS/AP
Hollywood has been tiptoeing its way toward letting consumers buy a movie online, burn it onto a DVD and watch it on a living-room TV.

While the studios hesitate, the adult film industry is taking the leap.

Starting Monday, Vivid Entertainment says it will sell its adult films through the online movie service CinemaNow, allowing buyers to burn DVDs that will play on any screen, not just a computer.

It's another first for adult film companies that pioneered the home video market and rushed to the Internet when Hollywood studios still saw it as a threat.

"Leave it to the porn industry once again to take the lead on this stuff," said Michael Greeson, founder of The Diffusion Group, a consumer electronics think tank in Plano, Texas.

"The rest of Hollywood stands back and watches and lets the pornography industry work out all the bugs," he said.

There are business and technology factors that make it easier for adult film companies to embrace new technology faster than traditional media.

On the business side, Hollywood makes more money offering films on DVDs than in theaters. As a result, studios are hesitant to anger large retailers such as Wal-Mart and Blockbuster by selling DVD-ready downloads directly to consumers.

Recently, most of the big studios have started selling films over the Web, including on CinemaNow, which is partly owned by the film studio Lionsgate, Microsoft Corp., Cisco Systems Inc. and Blockbuster Inc. Consumers can burn a backup DVD, but it can only be played by a computer, not a DVD player.

The adult film industry doesn't face the same business challenges.

"We don't have to divvy up the pie," said Bill Asher, co-chairman and co-owner of Vivid Entertainment, the largest distributor of adult entertainment. "We sell in smaller stores, mainstream chains, but no one dominant component where we're going to get that phone call."

There are also technical issues for Hollywood to resolve.

To prevent piracy, studios now use what's known as the "content scrambling system," or CSS, to keep consumers from copying DVDs and sending the files around the Internet.

The system, which is easily circumvented, is built into every DVD player to block the playing of movies on discs burned by a computer.