Soft-Core Filmmakers Go Direct on Cable Access

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The makers of the Emmanuelle film series are taking their soft-core video product direct to consumers for the first time through an infomercial that features topless women.


However, the half-hour show will run only on commercial leased access cable channels, and only a censored version has been allowed by cable operators in many markets.


Titled "The Naked Shopping Network," the show features late-night erotic film stars Kira Reed and Kylie Wyote with a guest appearance by Playboy model Laurie Wallace. Set to launch this week, the show markets The Emmanuelle Collection, videos from the soft-core film series that began in 1974 with the French film "Emmanuelle."


The series includes a 3-D version of the 1999 film "Emmanuelle in Space," starring former "Baywatch" regular Krista Allen. The product includes a pair of 3-D glasses for viewing several minutes of 3-D footage featuring Allen.


The infomercial is in a talk-show format, with the hosts in various stages of undress having a scripted conversation with a single fan who "calls in." Producers made censored and uncensored versions, humorously using black masking tape to block nudity in the censored version.


Erotic film pioneer Alain Siritzky, the French producer who financed the original "Emmanuelle" movie and brought the franchise to the United States, is behind the effort to turn the brand into a direct-response product. Siritzky said he was inspired by the success of the Home Shopping Network, by "Girls Gone Wild" -- another erotic video product that has made millions on the late-night DRTV circuit -- and by sales of DVDs via direct response in general.


However, Siritzky said that beyond the erotic content, the similarities between "Girls Gone Wild" and "Emmanuelle" end.


"'Girls Gone Wild' is the girl next door," he said. "We're something with a script, makeup. We're making films."


Siritzky said he was surprised by how many markets will let him run the uncensored version. The infomercial, which will be shown in metropolitan areas nationwide, will air uncensored in two-thirds of its markets, split about evenly between cable providers who will run the show after 10:30 p.m. and others who will run it after midnight.


"Of course, it's very soft, and it's done in a tone that's not offensive," Siritzky said of the infomercial. "I think there should be more against violence on TV than sex."


Gerry Cunningham, the San Diego-based consultant who helped with the infomercial media buying, said he has been an advocate of DRTV on cable-access stations since they became available in 1993. Congress mandated that cable providers make commercial leased cable access available following the deregulation of the industry, he said.


Cable-access time prices are regulated by the Federal Trade Commission and are very affordable when purchased in half-hour blocks, costing about 10 cents on the dollar compared with regular cable television rates, Cunningham said. In addition, federal rules make it difficult for cable providers to censor cable-access programming, resulting in an ideal venue for infomercials with erotic content.


"It's the only cost-regulated air time I know of," he said.


Cunningham declined to reveal details of the media plan. Siritzky said that if the show proves successful, he will introduce more "Naked Shopping Network" shows featuring other products from his collection of erotic films.


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