By Sabrina Rodriguez
By Michael E. Miller
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According to Verleur, some of the hotel room setups will include technology, developed by another company, allowing viewers to bid on "private sessions" or chat online with porn stars. Did you like The Joy Virus (the story of a mad scientist whose potion causes people to reach orgasm every two hours "or they die")? Get on the keyboard and chat with the flick's lead. This, Verleur says, is the future of television and will be the secret of success for Pink TV "the only network that lets you meet the stars." The plan is to make all Pink TV channels interactive, eventually using proprietary technology that Verleur claims is ready to go. You'll be able to choose a camera angle during a voyeur program or click on a product window during a show to buy the Ben Wa balls the hostess is giggling about.
The idea for now, unlike most business models in the porn world, is retention over volume. Verleur doesn't bother with affiliate programs the system by which other sites link to yours in exchange for a commission. Instead Pink TV has been targeting loyal members of other porn sites, exchanging content production services with site administrators for their members' contact information. Verleur is confident the law of statistics will be generous to him. "If I get a three percent conversion, I may have to go with the Ferrari instead of the Bentley," he joked.
But Verleur might have good reason to plan for the pricier Bentley. Pink TV's focus on interactivity, combined with its high production budgets up to $50,000 for one movie, an amount on par with Los Angeles's biggest porn studios put the company in a "unique position," according to Alec Helmy, publisher of the online version of industry magazine XBiz. "There is really no equivalent to what Pink TV is doing," said Ken Knox, associate editor of AVN Online. "The only thing you can compare them to is Playboy TV, but they have a much bigger agenda."
Pink TV has its work cut out. In the U.S., Playboy TV and the company's Spice channel are available to more than 142 million cable and satellite viewers, according to Playboy's Website. The networks' reach extends to more than 70 countries throughout Europe, Latin America, and Asia. Playboy TV spokesman Matt Kalinowski declined to comment about the network's production costs or plans for interactivity and said he hadn't heard of Pink TV.
Playboy TV? "Try watching it," Verleur quipped, his smirk uncontrollable. The shows are "boring" and unoriginal, Verleur said of his competition, nothing like the MTV-HBO-porn hybrid Pink TV aspires to.
Pink TV itself is far from perfect, said Lezley Zen, a big-name porn actress whose tenure as Pink TV's franchise starlet lasted all of three months. The dark-haired, pouty-lipped 32-year-old veteran of flicks such as Cheating Housewives #2 and Deep Throat This #4 left behind work with major porn studios Vivid and Wicked to come to Miami. For the mother of two, Pink TV seemed like a promising idea and a first step toward getting out of porn acting.
The plan, Zen said recently, was to do some scene work, put Pink TV on the porn map, and then become an executive at the company. The two sides agreed to terms, Zen claimed, but never signed the $6000-per-month contract because of various unresolved questions and scheduling issues. Soon there was a disagreement over Zen's involvement with the Pink TV booth at a Los Angeles porn convention. Then there were the arrangements for moving Zen's furniture, dogs, and cars to Florida, which she said her new employers botched badly, forcing her to fly back to California and arrange the move herself at great cost.
Two days after returning to Miami, Zen went to work on Into the Mist, Pink TV's BDSM soap opera. Despite the high production costs about $50,000 per episode, according to Verleur "It was the corniest, craziest thing I've ever seen," Zen said of the experience. The set was an eclectic house "maybe 2000 square feet" filled with bric-a-brac. "I've shot boy/girl gonzo in better locations," she snorted. Refusing to wear the TJ Maxx costumes her costars donned, Zen rented high-end dominatrix gear, on her own dime, from a friend in the business.
Unfortunately Zen's high-price leatherwear didn't do much for the plot. In a memorable early scene from Episode 1, Zen, playing Victoria Rutherford, the ruthless mistress of Rutherford Manor, becomes incensed at her servant boy, Willy, for spilling soup on her lap. In front of her houseguests two young women who wrongly believe they've been hired as nannies Rutherford forces Willy to remove his pants and then proceeds to paddle his bare save for the strap of his black thong behind. An excerpt:
Willy: Ms. Victoria, please, not so rough.
Victoria Rutherford: Show the girls how it's done, so when it's their turn, they'll know how to take it. (The girls exchange looks of frightened shock.) Spread those legs nice and wide.
Willy: They don't go any wider.
Rutherford: You like that, don't you?
Willy: No, it's ... ow. Please, Ms. Victoria. I think my butt's bleeding.
Rutherford: No, it's not. I promise. (A few moments later, Rutherford begins to spank Willy in rhythm with her lines.) You will not (spank) spill things (spank) on me (spank) at dinner (spank).
(After the spanking, the still pants-less Willy leads the girls to the bedroom they will share. As a piano tinkles in the background, Willy points out the pillows and blankets and suggests the girls get a good night's rest. Willy then walks away, the camera following his rear end in a tight closeup. "Did you see that butt?" one of the girls asks in a rhetorical deadpan.)