XBIZ 2017: Cams in the Crosshairs
LOS ANGELES — XBIZ 2017, presented by Camgasm.com, launched its NETbilling-sponsored multitrack educational program in full force today in the Andaz Rooftop Ballroom, with an in-depth examination of live camming and its impact on immersion and interactivity.
The kick-odd session, entitled, “Live Cams: The Future of Interactivity,” offered insights for models, promoters and studios, detailing the cutting-edge technologies and groundbreaking business practices that are reshaping this dynamic market segment.
Moderated by GameLink’s Jeff Dillon, the panel of webcamming industry insiders included Streamate’s Yuval Kijel; Flirt4Free’s Jamie Rodriguez; FreeWebcams’ Eric Wexel; Chaturbate’s Shirley Lara; Shay Efron from ImLive; Courtney Rudolph of Cams.com; and CAM4’s Gunner Taylor.
As with many aspects of adult today, the topic of virtual reality was the first to rise, with Dillon asking the group if the VR cam market is a legitimate segment or merely a fad.
Rodriguez summed up a common perception that while VR has not been the company’s focus, there is a substantial potential for the future, with most players keeping a close eye on its development.
More pressing market factors face top-tier operators, however.
“We spend 100 times more effort on the quality of our streams, and that’s where our focus is,” Kijel explains. “Most of us will have [VR offers] this year, but don’t see it changing the industry.”
For his part, Taylor says, “VR technology is not just a fad, it is here to stay.”
Wexel told the audience that the VR camming equation has three parts to consider — it needs a camera, robust connectivity from the model (which can be problematic, especially for performers in third-world countries), and a headset for the viewer.
“If there is a problem, the site owner is the one who looks bad,” Wexel explains. “We’re watching what others are doing, but do not see it as a huge profit center.”
It is a sentiment echoed by other panelists.
“People use cams for relationships, not for sex,” Efron explains. “The technology is not ready to offer to our users, and the cost is prohibitive. It is a nice feature for extra revenues, but it will [cannibalize our] existing sales.”
Driving more profits in the current market are connected sex toys, known as haptic devices, but even these revolutionary products have a downside.
“One- and two-way haptics add cost and slow adoption,” says Rudolph, while Rodriguez says that Flirt4Free has been offering connected toys for the past two years.
“[We] listen to what the models want to have in their shows,” Rodriguez says, discussing various devices popularly used. “OhMiBod is much more successful because it’s easy for models and customers to set up and use and engage with.”
“OhMiBod provides instant gratification,” says Lara. “We’ll see more of this before we see VR.”
Kijel agrees, citing the huge diversity of toys, and notes that “most of us will be making way more money with interactive toys than with VR.”
“Toys in general are a profit center,” Wexel says. “Our models make 30 percent more money [when using connected toys], and that’s a huge incentive.”
Wexel also cites a need for better APIs to ease integration of these devices into existing cam networks.
“It’s a mistake to compare interactive toys with VR,” Efron explains. “Toys are an interactive feature that contributes to the connection between models and users.”
Technology is also affecting the arena of cam promotion, with social media making the most headlines.
“Social media tools are important for model promotions, such as auto-tweeting tools,” Rodriguez says. “We know models can be great marketers, but don’t always have the time to do it.”
Rudolph and Wexel agreed that it is important to provide links and other assets for models to tweet out, to help leverage their promotional efforts.
Another topic that gained considerable attention is piracy — a major factor for prerecorded content producers but of lesser concern to live cam companies where the experience, rather than the imagery, tends to be the most monetizable, while Kijel notes “cam piracy is not as big a problem as porn piracy.”
“Piracy is affecting entertainment in general and is a hard task to tackle, but we do help through our DMCA department,” Lara says, explaining that many models do not use their real names due to privacy concerns, and are thus reluctant or unable to file DMCA notices.
Efron takes the tact of informing new models about the reality of the situation.
“You cannot control it,” Efron says. “Once it’s out there, it’s out there.”
“It’s a ‘Catch-22,’” Wexel reveals. “Models want us to promote their room, but then get ‘boyfriended up’ and want their content taken down.”
As for what is new and on the horizon for 2017, all of the panelists look forward to a bright future.
“This year,” Rudolph reveals, “we are perfecting our interactive toy options and gamifying our site to add more revenue options for our models.”
“It’s becoming much more competitive,” Taylor says. “You need to be on your A-game.”
Efron points to the launch of Sex.sex and its innovative approach to camming, as well as the company’s plans to improve its model interface with integrated tweeting tools; the upcoming launch of a VR site; and full APIs that allow everyone to integrate the company’s technology into their own site.
“We’re providing more moneymaking tools for models while enhancing the user experience,” Lara says, adding that the company is pushing its new Camgasm site and new business models.
“We’re refining benefits in both free and premium business models,” Wexel says, “and have perfected one-clicks to where we can focus on offering one-click cams to partners.”
“We did a lot of things right in 2016, but those were building blocks for 2017,” Rodriguez says. “For 2017, it’s about putting out the best product possible and solidifying our platform for continued growth.”
Other panelists echoed this attitude of incremental excellence, and the need for mobile compatibility.
“2017 is going to focus on the tectonic change in mobile for models, users, and affiliates,” Kijel says, “with full crossover between desktop and mobile offers, as well as robust black labels via APIs.”
APIs and black label sites are on all operators’ radars, but as Efron points out, “APIs are best for the big dogs that know what they are doing.”
The panel concluded with an examination of some of the challenges that camming will face in 2017 — with age-verification and a changing political landscape, as well as billing flexibility, the main concerns.
“Processing is getting harder,” Wexel says, citing the chargeback threat arising from cams’ billing model, where one customer may be making hundreds of transactions; while Efron wants the industry to have better mobile billing options, saying, “We don’t have a billing solution that supports carrier billing.”
The adult industry’s premier annual conference series takes over West Hollywood’s elegant Andaz hotel from Jan. 9-13, for four action-packed days of unparalleled business opportunities, along with executive networking, in-depth insights and social events in a luxurious setting.
XBIZ 2017’s exclusive seminars and workshops offer the latest trends in every adult market segment, with an emphasis on the cutting-edge of interactive entertainment, digital media, mobile tech, and more, delivering a view toward the future while providing attendees with the knowledge and power they need to stay ahead of the curve.
The event series peaks on Thurs., Jan. 12, with the adult industry’s biggest night, the 2017 XBIZ Awards, hosted by adult film legend Ron Jeremy, in the ballroom of L.A.’s Westin Bonaventure Hotel.
For more information, visit XBIZShow.com.