Porn Kingpin Steven Hirsch Believes Tube Sites Are Good for the Porn Industry

Porn stars have started an online campaign to convince people to stop using tube sites, but Steven Hirsch, the porn tycoon who brought us the Kim Kardashian sex tape, thinks they should stop their fight and work with the tube sites instead.

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Jun 7 2014, 12:00pm

Photo courtesy of Vivid

Last week, I wrote an article about #payforyourporn, porn stars and piracy experts’ online campaign to convince people to buy porn instead of using tube sites. As I researched the story, I came across a cornerstone of the adult entertainment industry who disagrees with the porn stars—Steven Hirsch. Thirty years ago, Hirsch founded Vivid Entertainment, the porn empire that gave us the instant classics Kim K Superstar and Farrah Superstar: Backdoor Teen Mom. Unlike porn star Jessica Drake—who told me, “[Tube sites are] taking money away from all different areas”—Hirsch believes production companies benefit from tube sites and need them to survive. Interested in learning more about his unconventional business strategy, I called Hirsch to talk about his partnerships with tube sites, the history of Vivid, and how porn stars can use tube sites to their advantage.

VICE: How has Vivid changed as the porn industry has changed?
Steven Hirsch: When we started our business [30 years ago], we had some different ideas of things that hadn't been used before, such as signing girls to exclusive contracts. It was right when VHS tapes were going into video stores, so video stores were starting to open up as opposed to adult bookstores. We were one of the first adult entertainment companies that really used the internet to its advantage, so we're used to always pushing the boundaries of technology.

How has Vivid’s business evolved with the evolution of technology?
Several ways. You take, for example, our celebrity sex tapes. No one else has them, and people can't knock them off, meaning they can't do another celebrity sex tape unless they have another celebrity—and they are very unique. People are willing to pay for them. We do superhero parodies that are parodies of Batman, Superman, all of them. And again, that's unique content. We have authentic swinger movies, which nobody else has. For us it's been important to find niches and content that people are willing to pay for and then use the tube sites as a way to help promote those movies.

How do they help you promote content?
It's sort of like launching a trailer for a Hollywood movie. We'll take a three-to-five minutes clip of, say, a celebrity sex tape, and we will put it on the tube sites, and in return the tube sites will help to promote the movie, and they'll send traffic back to us for people who want to see the entire movie.

Should the industry be working with the tube sites rather than fighting against them?
The industry continues to evolve, and there are two ways you can look at it: You can either complain and whine about why things aren't the way they were two years ago, or you can continue to evolve and produce content that people want to see. Most companies don't make it 30 years—certainly not in the adult industry. You have to be flexible, and you have to be willing to take chances and not be set in your ways if you want to survive for a long period of time. The tube sites are only the most recent incarnation of what is the big threat to the business. At one point it was piracy, and we saw VHS tapes being pirated and DVDs being pirated. You've got to work through that stuff.

Performers have told me that tube sites have decreased their amount of work.
I think it's interesting because I understand that as a result of the tube sites, there are fewer movies being produced, because if you're going to produce just run-of-the-mill porn that's not really different, there's no real reason for anyone to pay for it because they could get something similar for free. So there are fewer companies producing, and therefore fewer jobs for the performers.

But what I see, talking to some of the performers, is that they really use this as a way to take control of their career. The tube sites may in some ways be bad for the industry, but it's also spawned a whole new market, which is camming. The girls out there who are camming—and do it right and make it a priority—are making a bunch of money. Also, what I've found is that a lot of the girls are shooting their own content. They're shooting their own unique content, and they do content trade from other girls. They have their own website, and they make money being entrepreneurs in their own businesses.

What are some of the biggest misconceptions about the tube sites?
I think one of the [misconceptions] that people have about the tube sites is that they just steal all of this content and put it up on the sites. That is not the case. People work with the tube sites, and you can take down whatever you want. What I've certainly seen with these celebrity sex tapes is that we've been able to [take] movies down from the tube sites, and that's because we're working closely with them, and when we see [piracy], we let them know that there's something on there illegally, and they remove it immediately. The point is they’re not going anywhere. 

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