Earnings: Playboy Execs: Yes We Can…Hope

A tough quarter for Playboy Enterprises … during the Q1 conference call with investors and analysts, Bob Meyers, Playboy’s (NYSE: PLA) EVP and president of media, said the company sees no let up in the pressure on print circ and ads. To ease the strain, Playboy’s is continuing plans to combine print, online and TV. International TV, online and mobile, in particular, remain hopeful spots, and despite Q1’s 3 percent drop in online revenues, Meyers insisted that the business remains profitable.

Web overhaul, virtual worlds: The company has begun a “major revamp” for Playboy.com, though Meyers said the results won’t be felt until the end of the year. He also cited unspecified new investment in search engine optimization, as well as more content and additional community features. Last week, Meyers noted, the company created the Playboy Audience Network, a distribution network that that will put its videos on YouTube, Break Media and others. Chairman and CEO Christie Hefner said that later this year, the company plans to create new virtual worlds as part of its online mix as well.

Staci adds: I talked with Jeremy Westin, EVP-business development for Playboy Media Group, after our EconSM conference last week about the Playboy Audience Network and other initiatives. One effort combines the PlayboyCasting channel on YouTube, where women Playmate wannabes can post two-minute videos — non-nude — to compete in a virtual casting call that could result in a pictorial for Playboy.com and even for the magazine’s 55th Anniversary Playmate. Playboy’s Holly Madison is hosting the contest, producing video blogs, picking out entries to spotlight. The channel is part of the new Playboy Audience Network, launching with YouTube, Break, Veoh, Howcast, and Metacafe both for distribution of lifestyle-video content and as an ad network. The content includes library and original material, again, all non-nude. Playboy will push interest in the network with more contests and user-gen material. It is also getting into the widget game via a deal with Mixercast to produce ad-supported and contest widgets. All of these efforts should boost traffic and interest. Will they boost ad sales and revenue? Check in next quarter.

Rafat adds: When will we see some transformative acquisitions from Playboy, especially on the digital side? It desperately needs one, to stay relevant…