Debbie does HD-DVD; no porn on your PS3

The battle for next-generation DVD is over, and HD-DVD is the winner: Sony is refusing to work with adult films who might want to put porn on Blu-Ray. It’s VHS versus Betamax all over again, with the no-porn format (Betamax) getting a sound spanking from the pro-porn one (VHS).

Everybody knows that when it comes to rival video formats, the one that doesn’t have screwing is screwed (and that’s probably the first of several really bad porn-related jokes I’m going to make in this post). But while that was undoubtedly true in the dim and distant past, when the only way to get porn movies was on video cassettes, I’m not convinced it’s the case now.

The big question is whether porn really matters to video formats now. Porn is certainly big business – most estimates suggest that the revenue from the US adult industry is around $3 billion per year more than Hollywood – but it’s increasingly an internet business. All the major producers have an internet presence, and they’ve been at the forefront of pushing both marketing and technology. Online porn offers instant gratification, whereas disc-based formats don’t. Online shopping certainly makes porn purchasing easier and guarantees that you can get the title you actually want, but you still have to wait for the disc to arrive – whereas broadband means even high-res downloads are quick.

I’d be interested to see the figures for pornography purchasing, because my gut feeling is that download sales are rampant while disc sales are losing their thrust. There are some stats out there: according to PC Magazine, porn sales and rentals (of discs and tapes, not downloads) fell 15% in 2006 and account for 28% of the adult market. I haven’t been able to find stats on streaming sites, download rentals and the like.

There’s also the issue of whether high definition is important to porn purchasers. As far as I’m aware all next-gen DVD players can play plain old DVD anyway, and many of them upsample the DVD signal for better picture quality. Hi-def DVDs will be considerably more expensive than plain old DVD discs, and of course there’s also the issue of whether hi-def offers too much detail. I guess that depends on whether porn viewers are like movie geeks – look at the pixels on that! – or whether reality might be a little too realistic for them. As Moriarty writes on Ain’t It Cool News:

I’m not sure I’d want to see someone like Ron Jeremy in high definition. There are, after all, things you can’t unsee.

Incidentally, the post title’s a little misleading: apparently the sequel to the legendary Debbie Does Dallas will be coming out on both HD-DVD and Blu-Ray for maximum market penetration. Perhaps porn producers will swing both ways until one format becomes dominant.