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It’s been quite a couple of weeks in the gay porn industry; at this point, nothing would surprise me.

First is the big news from Colt, which my co-blogger Ronnie so aptly covers. Condolences to John and Tom at this difficult time.

IML banned bareback porn from the leather market for the first time, sort of like shutting the gate after the horse has left the barn (oh wait, they did make an exception for the bestiality video booth, since neither the dogs, horses, nor men in these videos were wearing condoms). Nevertheless the consequences were reflected at the event. For the first time in my memory, the host hotel sent out an email 3 weeks prior to the weekend and redacted the 3-night minimum stay requirement. The hotel was roughly half-full, and the lobby, usually a shoulder-to-broad-shoulder wall, was empty enough to breeze in and out regardless of the day or time. The leather market itself was “dull” and “dead” according to several attendees, and a commenter on Joe.My.God suggested that old-time vendors were awol (aside from bareback porn companies). Of course, the economy still sucks, so it’s no shock that attendance is down. Nevertheless, in the face of discrimination based on politics, officials felt it so important to show their inclusiveness, the winner of the pageant was a transman in a wheelchair (congratulations and no disrespect to Tyler McCormick).

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Last night I had a brief exchange with Kurt Wild on Twitter that ended up rather poorly, and I was branded as as sock puppet of Damon Krueuzer’s. The big piece of evidence was that my site was alleged to be run on the same server; the truth is that I host my site on GoDaddy.com, and so does Kruezer. And so do some 39 million others.

My conundrum is that I want to remain anonymous.

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Ah, Twitter, you’ve already taught me so much, and it’s only been a month! You’ve reintroduced me to JRLChartsonline.net via a lovely little tweet that caught my eye regarding Titan Media pulling all content from the AEBN network.

Now, first, I have a problem with JRL. Frankly, they seem a bit too willing to give their advertisers positive coverage. Make that exclusively positive coverage. I respect their charts (as oposed to AVN’s, which are a joke), and afterall, JRL is trying to cover the dwindling wholesale market, and they have built some credibility on this front.

A couple of weeks ago, however…
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GayVN shoots and missesNow, who does AVN think they’re kidding? Really, not one Treasure Island title in the top 100 sellers of some recent month (they don’t state for what month, but this is from the January 2010 issue)? And we’re supposed to believe that Jason Adonis Unseen sold more copies than either of Lucas’ Israel crap?

I counted fewer than 4 pages of content, including one full page of reviews. The book was 300 pages this issue, due mostly to it being a show issue. Of course, only two gay companies are bothering to exhibit at the AVN show. Wow, we’ve gone from being pissed about being shoved off into the corner to not even meriting a mention in the index.

And they wonder why nobody buys ads.

Oh, the hypocrisy. Falcon “Classic Bareback” movies, compiled into convenient compilation form, on sale now!

More hypocrisy from Falcon on display

I guess what escapes them is that if there was ever a time when we’d actually see a seroconversion take place on screen, these films were made during that time.

At the predictable-down-to-the-minute GayVN awards, Raging Stallion AEBN won everything, including the lovely shoes worn by Mr. Mapa. Not that anyone expected a different outcome, but one note worth mentioning: Ricky “Stubby” Sinz as best top. Who knew 4 inches will get you an award in San Francisco!

And then there’s Michael Lucas. Grabbing the microphone. Saying something stupid. Not letting it drop there. Stop me when I’ve said something new.
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Yes, they stuck their head further up their ass.

It seems that the bareback genie has been put back into the bottle, at least as far as the awards go. It seems the barebackers couldn’t give a shit, and the condom nazis weren’t going to tolerate it.

So the rumor going around now is that the 2010 awards will include bareback videos but require testing.

Testing… for what? If it’s HIV, we we all know that 80% of the models in ALL of gay porn are HIV positive. If GayVN is suggesting that the gay side follow the straight side of the biz, which effectively bans HIV+ performers, what are we going to do? Or, will there (continue to) be special dispensation for condom studios?

Models who start their own studios are, of course, a dime a dozen. For every Kristen Bjorn, Chip Daniels, and yes Michel Lucas (ugh), there a dozen others who fall by the wayside.

Sure working on the set can be fun! It’s those other pesky details of websites, paysites, distributors, and hangers-on that can turn porn into drudgery.

Colin O’Neal has certainly found out the hard way as his deal with Raging Stallion crumbles before our eyes. His World of Men line of movies is currently being pimped out by Raging Stallion at an 8-dvds for $99.99 special. For the mathematically challenged, that’s only $12.50 per movie.

Raging Stallion has flooded the market with similar product, and is finding out the hard way that sometimes, more is actually less.
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News that the GayVn awards will accept bareback content has leaked out as the marketing for the event begins. The question on everyone’s lips was “Would Chi Chi actually hand out an award to a bareback film?” How could she!!!

Ah, but the devil is always in the details as it seems that Miss Larry will be hand-picking the nominees herself based upon whether HIV testing was performed on the set. Several bareback companies such as HDK and Puppy have made statement about testing and serosorting of models, while most have said nothing publicly. How Miss Larry will determine this is anyone’s guess. But I don’t expect an onstage handshake between Chi Chi and Paul Morris anytime soon.
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There’s little doubt that the International porn empire known as Eurocreme is going through some tough times, but it was in a sense inevitable. The key to understanding ECs current and future situation is to examine the events that were out of their control, as opposed to the consequences of their own actions.

Built through a merger series of production and distribution businesses, EC tried to industrialize porn production with a high volume/low margin strategy that relied on several factors.

A) International Market
B) Continuous product flow from both Eastern and Western European sources (in-house, contracted, distributed)
C) Successful Integration of Smaller Businesses into a Larger whole (studios, distribution, retail, web)

The guys behind EC are all experienced players, and the strategy was initially successful. However there were several areas where things went wrong. These included:

1) Financial Factors — Exchange rates and production inflation: EC’s strategy relied on a selling tons of units into the US market. When the dollar sank like a stone, prices had to go up and EC lost a competitive edge that was a cornerstone to their business model. On the production side, Vlado Iresch and his son are the creme of crop of Czech gay porn production. As of this writing he has produced/directed more bareback movies than any other player in the business. The Czech Republic and Slovakia have long been fertile ground, and combined with a professional production team doing bareback it initially worked quite well. But as productions cost rose and competition for models became more intense, the cost/quality advantage Vlado enjoyed evaporated.

2) Product Line Confusion and Sameness of Product

During the past 5 years, Vlado Iresch was a machine, cranking out films featuring caverjected sexbots barebacking like crazy. Intially hedging their bets, EC went with 1 Distribution and Pacific Sun for seperate lines. EC deftly started with three lines of product, Bare, Raw, and Twinkz, and intially things went spectacularly well. The strategy was brilliant, and to a US market starved for twink bareback content, it was manna from heaven. 1D was the smartest young distributor in the business, and even the condom lines meant to compete with Bel Ami and Cobra did well. However, Vlado chose to follow a straight model by having contract boys whom he used over and over again. In a way it made sense, as Vlado had a pipeline to fill, and he was always shooting. Also, the young performers actual sexual orientation didn’t matter to Vlado. Can a straight boy play gay? Of course. Does that get old after a while? Without doubt. After all, it wasn’t passion that drove Vlado to instruct his models to do American style bareback cumshots. If you subscribe to the theory that gay men make the best gay porn, you’ll agree.

The split product lines were both smart and cute. It evoked the bygone days of the record business where labels came and go, and often didn’t matter. The lines of Bare, Twinkz, Raw, and Punkz split between two distributors was great thinking, and provided just enough cover for the different lines of product. Following the merger with Stud Mall, they picked up several products/lines for distribution as well. Two years ago, things looked very good for the world wide operation.

But the key to the operation was Vlado, and while he produced an incredible amount, his product became cookie cutter. What started as a brilliant marketing move, ended up as a tired sales ploy. A porn company’s brand is central to the marketing of their product. Customers often purchase by brand, and gay customers can be the most loyal in the world.

EC initially emphased brand, but by attempting to market dozens of video lines many with the same models, pairings, and settings, EC diluted whatever brand equity they had. Between that, flooding the market, and then reflooding it with compilations sold at an even lower cost, it’s like an attack of the clones.

This product formula can be summerized as:

Straight Models & Producers + Sameness of Product + Excessive Production + Remarketing = Glut & poor demand

3) The Barebacking issue and Rufus the doofus

Over the past five years, EC has been realtively unqiue in having a high schedule of production for both bareback and condoms films. Having some condom lines and some bareback, and some bareback crossover within those lines was simply confusing. Bareback customers generally don’t want condoms and vice-versa. They lost some of the economies of scale because certain customers would only take a percentage of their product. These economies were another cornerstone of their business, and without them the business model does not work.

Since the business EC was attempting to build was to rival or outdo Euro players such as Prowler or Dusedo, they needed a lot of product to keep its pipeline flowing. It wasn’t so much inevitable that EC and Rufus FFolkes would tie up, just that the pairing of course made so much sense. Another production powerhouse, Rufus’ record speaks for itself. He rivaled Vlado in sheer numbers, but was simply too sloppy in his business practices to be taken seriously. His public disgrace and imprisonment made it difficult for EC to continue bareback production in the UK, even as other producers move in to fill the void.

EC had some very good ideas about how to run a modern porn business, but their business relied on several factors beyond their control. The company’s attempt to commoditize gay porn relied on a strong dollar, and a cheap model pool. The product sported corporate authorship and lacked the authenticity that many of today’s customers want, especially on the bareback side of the business. The company also was missing the real web component. The company waited too long to get it’s product onto the web, and when it finally did the companies compilations alienated some on the VOD side as well.

The way forward

Since EC has experienced negative synergy — the sum of the parts is actually less than the parts taken individually — the only way forward is divestiture of the core components, in EC’s case driven along both ideological and physical boundaries. It’s like this: the original Eurocreme based in the UK does not want to produce bareback films, Vlado is worried about the current state of barebacking in the Czech Republic with the renewed government interest in these activities, and both New York and Homoactive require bareback product demanded by their markets. The four components that merged to create EC should split, and New York and Homoactive should produce locally. The question is whether the market will accept the products — or even note any differentiation. Certainly, one can hope that Eurocreme UK will be accepted by the gay porn gliteratti that own the GayVNs, but since winning a GayVN means absolutely nothing in sales, its irrelevant. The only relevant question is whether the four that make EC can extricate themselves from one-another — and survive.

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