The Playboy Channel, a premium-cable offering that has heretofore specialized in soft-core pornography, had a problem: not enough people were watching it. Nether as hard-core as the Internet or video-on-demand services, it was still totally icky to women, who pay the cable bill and select premium channels. (And yet, do not control the remote?) What was the ignored bunny to do? Hire a marketing-research team, of course! And what shocking conclusion did the marketing-research team come to? Dunh dunh dunh: Women do not mind watching sex if it is not stupid, gross, and horribly filmed! And thus the Playboy Channel’s TV for 2, a new nightly programming bloc of classy sex shows intended to appeal to women, including a reality show about Brooklyn couples, was born.
How did the Playboy channel come to the startling conclusion that women mostly just hate watching the pizza boy gang-bang ladies with fake boobs under terrible lighting? Let’s see!
Conclusion: Women do not like watching phony sex.
Evidence: “According to the channel’s market researcher ‘women — particularly younger women — were not opposed to pornography as long as it had certain attributes.’ Among them: real chemistry, nonenhanced body parts, varied body shapes and ‘contextualized’ sex. ‘They want the romance to flow organically from the story and not pop up in a forced fashion as is the case in so many adult movies,’ Ms. Lee [Playboy’s market researcher] said.”
Conclusion: Women do not like watching things that are cheap and stupid.
Evidence: “Ms. Lee also observed, ‘As a result of exposure to unrestricted adult content on the Web, where you can see naked midgets on a Sunday if you want, squeamishness around overt sexuality and the sex act is being desensitized.’ The catch, she said, is that most sex-related programming looks fake, cheesy or cheap — or all three. In other words, if Playboy is serious about its new couples strategy it needs to invest in higher-quality content.”
Conclusion: Women do not have a special “porn” filter in their brain.
“We don’t suddenly switch on a different brain when we watch adult content — ‘Oh, I expect this to be really crappy,’” Ms. Lee said. “Sophisticated consumers, even unsophisticated ones, are asking, ‘Why is this so bad?’”
But can all of this generally clear-eyed marketing research about what women want from sexy TV help the Playboy Channel get what it really wants — more men to watch the Playboy Channel? According to the senior vice-president and general manager of Playboy’s domestic television operation, really the dream here is dudes watching with their partner: “Guys will always be satisfied with Playboy, but I’m pretty sure a lot of guys would rather be watching with their partner by their side.” The conclusion on that? Inconclusive!