TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Cellphone Sex; Will it Play in Peoria

Cellphone Sex; Will it Play in Peoria

Tom Brown (
Fri, 27 Jan 2006 00:19:31 -0600

By Tom Brown

Dial P for porn? It may never be quite that easy. But cell-phone
pornography is a fast-growing business that analysts expect will
generate about $2 billion in global revenue by 2009.

And porn-on-the-go was the focus of a two-day Mobile Adult Content
Congress that wrapped up in Miami on Thursday amid expectations,
according to at least some participants, that it will soon catch on in
the United States.

Consumers already spend tens of millions of dollars a year on
cell-phone-based adult content in Europe where companies such as
mobile-phone giant Vodafone Group Plc (VOD.L) -- or "Vodafilth" as it
was dubbed by one British newspaper -- are among the distributors.

Leading American cellular carriers have been reluctant to jump onto
the bandwagon, however, fearing a backlash from the conservatives and
the religious right if they provide U.S. consumers easy access to
hand-held X-rated theater.

The Miami conference, aimed at allaying some of those concerns, was
sponsored by Waat Media, a California-based company that represents
some of the leading so-called late-night U.S. entertainment brands.

Rather than focusing on steamy content or images, such as video
footage featuring conference attendee Ron Jeremy -- a porn star who
has licensed his name to RJ Mobile -- industry officials focused here
on issues such as content rating and filtering devices or age
verification mechanisms, meant to prevent underage consumers from
buying adult content.

It was all a bit staid and very business-like, but one speaker, an
executive identified as James Walz of West Management, did seem to get
worked up as he talked about features like "personalized strip teases"
and unbridled U.S. market potential.

"There's a huge consumer demand following up on the immense success of
the Internet," Walz said. "It's a sizzling, serious business."

U.S. sales of erotica or porn distributed via cell phones were
estimated at no more than about $30 million last year.

But Adi McAbian, Waat Media's managing director, told Reuters that
U.S. revenues could soon hit about $500 million per year, once the
right technology, and services such as "robust age verification," are
in place.

One key to future growth, apart from an avoidance of excessive
regulatory controls, will be the ability U.S. consumers should have to
get billed for adult content directly by their cell-phone providers,
McAbian said.

"There's no doubt it's a huge market forthcoming. Long-range it's a
huge market," he said.

On a global basis, Juniper Research, which specializes in research on
the telecoms industry, says sales of adult mobile services are seen
tripling between 2004 and 2009 to $2.1 billion.

Tina Southall, director of content standards at Vodafone, told Reuters
adult offerings were a key part of the company's multimedia strategy
across Europe.

But what sells in Austria or Hungary, which she described as Europe's
"most explicit markets," or even in Ireland, Britain and Sweden, which
she ranked as Europe's "most conservative" venues, may not play in
Peoria, Illinois.

Jeffrey Nelson of Verizon Wireless, the U.S. cell-phone service that
Verizon Communications Inc. shares with Vodafone, said the company had
absolutely no plans to offer adult content on its mobile phones.

"As my grandmother would have said, 'fat chance,"' Nelson said.

"I hear all the same things you do about analysts saying this is a big
boom," he said. "We don't think that our customer base wants it."

Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited.

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