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Burgeoning Pornography Industry: Grossing From Millions to Billions in Three Decades

The pornography industry generates billions of dollars annually, according to a recent article.

“The business of selling sexual desire through images has become a $10 billion annual industry in the United States,” wrote Timothy Egan in the Oct. 23 New York Times.
The money to be earned in pornography is so significant even household names have entered the industry. General Motors, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, AT&T and Marriott own companies or divisions holding financial stakes in the delivery of pornographic material, according to the article.
DirecTV is a subsidiary of General Motors Corporation, with 8.7 million subscribers who purchase almost $200 million annually in satellite pay-per-view adult films.
Corporate leaders refused to comment publicly about their involvement in the pornography industry, wrote Egan.
“It’s the crazy aunt in the attic,” one AT&T official told Egan. “Everyone knows she’s there, but you can’t say anything about it.”
Pay-per-view adult films in hotel rooms generate about $190 million annually, according to hotel industry estimates reported in the article.
“At home, Americans buy or rent more than $4 billion a year worth of graphic sex videos from retail outlets and spend an additional $800 million on less explicit sexual films,” Egan wrote.
And on the Internet, “sex sites” produce a minimum annual revenue of $1 billion, according to Forrester Research analysts cited in the article.
“We’re in the small leagues compared to some of those companies like General Motors or AT&T,” said Larry Flynt of Hustler, in the article. “But it doesn’t surprise me that they got into it. I’ve always said that other than the desire for survival, the strongest desire we have is sex.”
The pornography industry generated between $5 and $10 million a year in the early seventies. Many believed the industry was limited because of inconvenient and embarrassing access, including entering seedy parts of town and dirty bookstores.
Now VCRs, cable, satellites and the Internet have made access to pornography less public and more private, according to the article.
“What investors and bigger corporations soon discovered was the vast audience for pornography–once the privacy barrier was eliminated,” wrote Egan.
Technology has privatized pornography. The result is a burgeoning industry attractive to big business.
“It’s not just technology that made the big boys get into it [pornography],” said Bryn Pryor, technology editor of Adult Video News, in the article. “This just happens to be a business where you can’t lose money.”
Cliff Vaughn is BCE’s project coordinator.