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They rolled up in stretch limousines and chromed-out Hummers, tinted windows reflecting the neighborhood's discount furniture stores, auto-body shops, and abandoned shopping carts. The party a $150,000 bash would be off the hook, they had been told. So dozens of porn industry bigwigs in town for last summer's Internext Convention in Fort Lauderdale came to this rundown corner of Miami, unsure of what to expect.
For some the night's trajectory would lead to South Beach. The trip from their high-rise hotels to this ghetto redoubt was a curiosity-driven detour, an expedition into the heart of what had been billed as ground zero for the future of adult entertainment. They wanted to see the porn revolution first-hand.
Partygoers were ushered down pink carpets to a walled-in gravel lot remade as a libido-soaked tropical wonderland: pillow-filled white cabanas, pulsing electronica, strippers writhing on poles, well-stocked bars, and the highlight of the evening live sex shows.
It was the grand coming-out for "the HBO of porn." A start-up Website and licensed television broadcaster with gigantic ambitions, Pink TV would "bridge the gap between mainstream and adult," in the words of its 27-year-old president. Company officials promised they would revolutionize the multibillion-dollar porn business not only with the most high-tech interactive programming but also a full menu of slickly produced original content everything from a game show called Match That Snatch to a fetish design show loosely similar to TLC's Trading Spaces, a news hour called The Fucking News, a voyeur program, and a reality series shot in a working brothel all with hard-core sex and all destined for American living rooms via satellite television. It would be the only hard-core porn channel modeled on the traditional broadcast television format, with a lineup of almost entirely original programming.
More than a dozen investors, including Miami bankers and real estate dealers, had put up $10 million to launch the network. Pink TV had secured broadcasting licenses under the name Heat TV in sixteen European markets with a combined 20 million viewers, and planned to begin launching channels by December 2006. The footage was there tens of thousands of hours' worth. Film crews had been shooting for two years in a nondescript, somewhat cramped Miami warehouse a block-and-a-half from an elementary school. A Prague office coordinated shooting in Eastern Europe, Spain, and Portugal.
So that night last August, there was an air of giddy optimism. With drinks and smokes in hand, guests wandered the lot and toured the adjacent warehouse, the only hard-core porn broadcast television studio on the continent, they were told. While nude lap dancers tended to VIPs, actors reenacted scenes from Pink TV original films such as The Slave Breeder, the diary of a sex slave; and Into the Mist, "the world's first BDSM [bondage, domination, and sadomasochism] hard-core soap opera," according to its tagline. All but one of the minidramas ended with live sex.
A plasma screen showed loops of bodacious women in scraps of camouflage, the "Pink Army," marching over a field of stuffed bunnies a not-too-subtle threat to Playboy TV, the gold standard in adult television broadcasting.
Some wondered if such a lavish promotional party was the best use of funds for a startup run by people with little or no adult entertainment experience. Could an idea like Pink TV work outside Los Angeles, the breadbasket of American porn? Was it even legal to do what they were doing in that warehouse?
On paper, Pink TV represents a new stage in the evolution of Miami's rapidly developing porn industry. Local Websites such as bangbros.com and milfhunter.com pioneered so-called gonzo reality porn, a wildly popular format with scenes shot at recognizable locations around the city. Pink TV promises to take things a giant leap beyond via original films, live shows, big budgets (by porn standards), acting coaches (seriously), proprietary interactive technology for the Web, satellite television, iPods, and cell phones. Jan Verleur, the spiky-haired entrepreneurial wunderkind at the helm, is quick to cite as inspiration Bill Gates's book The Road Ahead. In it Gates predicts that computers, TV sets, and other technologies will merge into a single "information appliance."
Experienced hands from Telemundo and HBO have signed on to produce Pink TV's all-original content unique in the online porn world for its high production value, and almost unheard of in the satellite television porn world for its reliance on in-house programming. Although Playboy TV has plenty of original shows, it offers nothing in the hard-core department. Playboy subsidiary Spice TV and other such networks carry hard-core but mostly license content from elsewhere.
There could be bumps along Pink TV's road, however. Miami U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta has called pornography not just child porn, but all porn a top priority for his office. While Acosta's anti-nudie crusade came as a surprise to many in the local industry, few Miamians remain unaware of their city's growing role as an adult entertainment capital rivaling Los Angeles. "They're like sister cities of porn," said Playboy TV spokesman Matt Kalinowski. This past June, Miami hosted, for the first time, a porn industry convention. Held at the Miami Beach Convention Center, Exxxotica, the largest such gathering in the Eastern U.S., featured skin-flick luminaries Ron Jeremy, Jenna Jameson, and Tera Patrick.