Does porn really lead?

State an opinion often enough and it gets taken as fact. The common wisdom is that porn is a technology king maker. Porn’s been credited with killing Betamax and giving birth to a commercially viable Internet. Countless video pundits during the 1990s predicted HDTV would take off once porn embraced it. Now HDTV is taking off, but is it really because of porn? I don’t think so. Porn’s not a leader. In fact, it’s not even a fast follower.

Porn is big business. It’s a crowded and highly competitive business. Turn safe search off in Google and you’ll see just how crowded. Porn floods every new distribution channel the moment the channel comes online. So once there’s a shake out and one technology prevails over another, porn’s already there. Folks are mixing up cause and effect. “Oh look, another successful technology brought to us by porn.” That is not how it works. Look at DVDs. Adult titles didn’t come out en masse until DVD players were around $300. MP3 is another example. Napster was MP3’s killer app. Porn wasn’t there. Now that the MP3 is here to stay, iPorn is born.

The same will hold true for IPTV. Porn will follow, but it won’t lead.

ITVN has been generating some buzz of late. CNET included its IPTV offering in its CES roundup last week. Forbes has written about ITVN. Ziff-Davis has heaped an Innovator of the Year of the Award upon it. Not bad for a company that lost $1.6 million on sales of $75,000 in six months. No, I didn’t miss a zero, but ITVN’s short a few.

Now ITVN’s not only about porn, but it might as well be. It’s next big launch was Lacrosse TV. IPTV is about niche content, but don’t expect to be raising serious VC funds with lacrosse. What ITVN proves is that one pornographer believes IPTV is for real. It also proves, pornographers can make bad technology picks like anyone else. Another set top box won’t be the answer.

So why all the attention to ITVN? One possibility: Journalists writing about ITVN could probably score a free box for “evaluation” purposes. With over 20,000 fetish titles ITVN should be able to score a few column inches.

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