It’s early on day two of the UBS Global Media & Communications Conference, but a theme is starting to emerge, particularly among the global media companies: they all have great brands on the cusp of global, multi-platform growth, with digital picking up where established media are tailing off — or so they claim. Playboy (NYSE: PLA) CEO Christie Hefner sounded a lot like ESPN’s (NYSE: DIS) George Bodenheimer in touting the multitude of platforms over which Playboy is extending its iconic brand. And just as Bodenheimer was sure to show the crowd some ESPN content, Hefner peppered her PowerPoint presentation with some unmistakably Playboy imagery to drive home the point. Still, in the right here and now, Playboy’s stock has been weak, and despite the opportunities in digital, growth in this area has been less than robust.
– Digital media: Launched social net PlayboyU.com in 2007. Looking for ways to take advantage of user-gen content. Lately, the company has been bulking up the content on the free site to take advantage of online advertising. At this point, paid premium content remains largest digital revenue stream and e-commerce is second. Since the efforts, digital ad sales are up 50 percent. Third party distribution: company has YouTube deal, as well as mobile partnerships. More integration coming between digital and magazine — more cross-promotion, integrated ad sales; 75 percent of deals involve multi-media sales. Still looking to use free content as a lure to sell premium online content.
– Mobile: Big believer in mobile. The company did a lot of early deals with companies like Hutchinson, but they weren’t particularly profitable. The upside was limited. Now company is directly involved with revenue generators, such as wallpapers or content downloads, which will allow for a greater opportunities.
– TV: Another area that’s been flat, but it’s still the company’s biggest profit driver. Right now it’s transitioning from a linear model to VOD. “The growth in VOD now is allowing us to see stable domestic TV revenues.” On TV the company is adding more short-form content, as online has shown the appeal of short form.
– Growth drivers: Playboy brand has a global appeal, so there’s more potential internationally. Hefner emphasized that Playboy is a real brand, and offered examples of what she meant: “Nike is a brand, but Reebok is a shoe. ESPN is a brand, Sports Illustrated is a shoe.”
– Content: Playboy is topical, capturing everything from an interview with Bill Richardson to racy picks of Kyla Ebbert, the woman who was kicked off of a Southwest Airlines flight for dressing too provocatively. More interactivity, such as online polls, Ask Hef.