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Companies working to give porn a leg up

Miami- The latest pitch of the adult entertainment industry: Turn on your cell phone and your cell phone could turn you on.

Porn-on-the-go or “mobile adult content”-the industry term for soft- and hard-core images, video, text and sound for wireless phones, PDAs, and portable Sony PlayStations-is big business globally. But, for some reason, the trend has yet to catch on in the United States.

That’s about to change, said those attending the Mobile Adult Content Congress, which recently met at the Radisson Hotel Miami.

The event could have been mistaken for a gathering of accountants. Explicit content was not allowed in presentations, the literature was relatively modest and, as in most for-profit businesses, speakers focused on ways to generate industry growth.

They left with the goals of making available more “moan tones,” Playmates of the day, live text messaging with web cam girls and other erotic content offered in other parts of the world.

Lusting for a piece of what experts have said is a multibillion-dollar market, industry executives from Europe, Asia and the United States kicked off the first adult-themed mobile content conference to examine issues standing in the way of maximum profits.

According to JupiterResearch, mobile sex content could generate $400 million in revenue by the end of the decade. Globally it could exceed $3 billion. But some argue that even those are gross underestimates of the market.

“Let’s face it, people aren’t going to spend an extra long and extra hard time searching for the next Disney trailer,” said Harvey Kaplan, vice president of mobile porn giant Xobile.

Mobile erotica is perhaps one of the hottest issues in the wireless industry.

“The biggest hurdle is age verification and just managing the services,” said Jason Healy, president of Funbox.com, an Australian company offering reality-based sexual fare. “We’re interested to see how the carriers are rolling this stuff out and how they are going to handle it in the U.S.”

Carriers-think Cingular Wireless, Verizon, T-Mobile USA Inc. and Sprint Nextel-are unable to verify ages of customers and that opens the companies up for lawsuits and the loss of customers who might switch to other companies in protest, Kaplan said.

Cell phone companies “will not get into bed with an adult client because they don’t want to tarnish their reputations as being porn peddlers,” Kaplan said.

Indeed, Charmaine Woeft, vice president of Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council, said cell carriers were going to have to choose between parents and pornographers.

“We are very concerned and we are paying attention,” Woeft said. “Pornographers have their own little playground on the Internet; now they are looking to give porn legs.”

The big wireless carriers, if present at the conference, were discreet about their participation.

David Miller, a representative from Sprint Nextel’s new business development and innovation department, had planned to attend, but said he had to cancel because of a scheduling conflict.

Dan Garza, president of Black Marlin Media of St. Petersburg, Fla., which organized the event, said several had pulled their speakers at the last minute.

But technically wireless carriers do provide adult entertainment and draw significant revenue from it-albeit indirectly, Kaplan noted.

Anyone with a credit card and a web-ready cell phone can access adult sites and download or stream videos formatted for their handset.

Customers subscribing to Internet service through their phones pay an additional $40 to $80 a month. And about 70 percent of them use it to access porn, Kaplan said.

“Carriers definitely want a piece of that business,” Garza said.

Retired porn star Ron Jeremy, who recently launched rjmobile, an online men’s magazine accessible by cell in the United Kingdom was at the conference promoting his brand.

The mobile revolution, he said, will be a great opportunity for the adult entertainment industry.

“We’re bigger than sports,” Jeremy said. “We’re bigger than the record industry, but we’re still relegated to the back of video stores or zoned out of existence. But in America, we’re not going to have hard-core porn until they get age verification.”

 

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