Gary Rosenson on the new era of Playboy TV

We get nostalgic and talk new shows with Playboy TV 's senior VP, Gary Rosenson.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

Gary Rosenson on the new era of Playboy TV

20 years later, my youthful days of recording Playboy TV on 8 hour VHS tapes has paid off professionally. Playboy TV brought their new TV for 2 shows to the Television Critics Association winter press tour. A Brooklyn Kind of Love is now showing and Swing premiers in February. We sat down with Playboy TV senior VP and general manager Gary Rosenson to discuss the new era of Playboy TV.


CraveOnline: I remember the days of Pay Per View where I’d order one night and put in a VHS tape and record the whole night.


Gary Rosenson: And then you wouldn’t have to buy it for three more months, right?


CraveOnline: That’s bold. More like until next week.


Gary Rosenson: Good. That’s actually good to hear.


CraveOnline: Then they changed it to four hour blocks but the same price as a whole night used to be.


Gary Rosenson: Yeah, it was TCI Cable back in the day, right? Where did you live?


CraveOnline: Near Annapolis, MD.


Gary Rosenson: Anne Arundel.


CraveOnline: You remember the county!


Gary Rosenson: Is that impressive? I started at Playboy 15 years ago so I had to go down to Jones Intercable and get Playboy TV carried there. Back then it was the analog cable days so there were only 60 or 70 channels. So I’m familiar with Anne Arundel county.


CraveOnline: So it’s not pay per view anymore.


Gary Rosenson: That’s not the prevalent means of purchase. It’s definitely more subscription today. The idea of a guy paying $10 for that block versus getting the whole month for maybe $15, the value proposition is just overwhelming.


CraveOnline: I would have subscribed if I could back then. It was ONLY pay per view.


Gary Rosenson: Right, so we went back and converted all those cable companies to subscription and they kept pay per view as an alternate option for people, but we had to go around the country and convince every cable operator. The vast majority of them switched over.


CraveOnline: Was the Spice channel a big competitor? I remember them as pay per view per movie.


Gary Rosenson: We bought Spice network. There is still a channel called Spice Excess which still has that legacy brand name. Spice started I think in ’89 so that’s been around over two decades.


CraveOnline: But now those kind of movies are on Cinemax now.


Gary Rosenson: The Spice that you remember which is a very soft edit. All the cable and satellite operators went to a much harder edit on the movies side of the business. They had to, but that business is just struggling because when you think about what’s available on the web, if you’re into blondes and brunettes, whatever sub-niche of adult you’re into you can dial it up right away.


CraveOnline: If you’re into some crazy sh*t you can find it.


Gary Rosenson: Yeah, I was going to say that. I was having trouble. For some reason I had a block on what the crazy sh*t would be without being politically incorrect. So if you’re into that, dial it up right away. The idea of a video on demand purchase on cable, they eventually had to raise the editing level of that from what you remember if you were buying it a decade or two ago. It’s gotten a lot hotter, but that was all the more reason why Playboy TV had to differentiate because Playboy TV was very much pay per view and guys had to be satisfied for every four hour block they bought. At some point you can’t win that game against the web.


CraveOnline: My favorite bits were the clips in between shows, maybe a video of a centerfold.


Gary Rosenson: They still do the interstitial with World of Playboy type stuff, what’s happening at the mansion, what’s happening with the playmates. They’ll do like playmates exercising. It’s all over the map.



CraveOnline: Is there a demand to get to see real hotties versus the glossy ones in the magazine?


Gary Rosenson: Yeah, the way toward getting women engaged with Playboy TV in a more meaningful way, I feel like whether guys would say it or not, they’d much rather be watching with their girlfriend or wife or whomever on the couch next to them than the solo experience that it usually is. One of the ways to do that is to create more real looking women, not these unattainable glossy [types] as you’re saying. Look, Playboy is very much about that in the magazine. That’s one of the trademarks of our magazine. Playboy TV, while it always will have a tieback to the core brand, it will always have playmate driven content, we definitely knew that women in many cases when they see girls who are perfect, they’ll sit there and fold their arms and cast a suspicious eye on all this stuff.


CraveOnline: It’s not that I think they’re unattainable. I think they all look the same.


Gary Rosenson: Yeah, and the idea that Playboy TV could have real looking women and very different looking women as you just said, I think is important.


CraveOnline: Is Swing the real Temptation Island?


Gary Rosenson: Swing is not really the real Temptation Island. Every couple was an actual couple that was somewhat interested in the swinging lifestyle. Although we put them all in a house, which is by the way how Swinger parties happen, so there’s nothing unreal about any of that versus Temptation Island and a lot of these shows, they create this sort of unreal scenario of okay, we’re going to send everybody to an island and separate them and that doesn’t happen in the real world. What we’re showing and why we hope people will gravitate toward it is this is something that really happens and this is something that if you have any interest in it, it could happen for you. It’s out there so you’re not watching it just for the entertainment value of Temptation Island of will they cheat, or won’t they? This isn’t cheating really, even though that question came up a lot. Yeah, there is a question of how will they both react within this relationship. They both came in with eyes wide open knowing that they’re going to a swinger event or party, but will they actually come out of it a stronger couple or not, there is that element of it.


CraveOnline: Sextreme Makeover sounds awesome. Will we get to see before and after, boring sex and hot sex?


Gary Rosenson: That’s the beauty of Playboy TV. We can show it all. There is sort of a tricky notion, how do you handle that middle segment? If the setup were my boyfriend used to do this or that in the first couple months of our relationship. We’ve been married now eight years and he doesn’t do any of those things anymore. Can you help us, Sextreme Makeover? In this middle act you get these sexperts in but the guy has to be trained somehow to do all those things. You can’t just send him off and have him with two other women because that would be kind of weird. We don’t want to make it seem unrealistic, but by the third act of this show, they’re going to be seen in the bedroom and we’re hoping that Sextreme Makeover has had a positive effect.


CraveOnline: Stash is your sort of The Soup for adult movies. Will it only be Playboy movies?


Gary Rosenson: Adult clips from everywhere. If it was just Playboy material it would be too limited. We have a very strict legal team as you would imagine and we’re not using anything that isn’t obviously okay to show, but everybody already has all these inside jokes about certain adult films they’ve seen or what have you. There’s a gold mine of humor out there that I don’t think anybody’s really taken advantage of. So when you think about what The Soup does for regular TV, we’re going to do for adult television. It’s a funny, funny show.


CraveOnline: Will Playboy TV have tie-ins with the magazine?


Gary Rosenson: Yeah, actually there’s always tiebacks to Playboy Magazine. Shootout had a tieback to the magazine. There’s also another show in development called Camp Playboy which originated with the magazine. Camp Playboy is when you think back to camp, we’re not dealing with kids obviously, we’re dealing with adults but it’s sort of those Meatballs type experiences. A girls camp and a boys camp, it’s a lot more racy but there’s going to be the games, the fun, all the things that happen at camp. That originated from the magazine and then they came to us on TV. Actually the guy who is involved with content on TV, magazine and online said, “I would love to do this cross platform thing with Camp Playboy.” So there are always those shows that do make it across.


CraveOnline: Will you put Hef’s wedding on the channel?


Gary Rosenson: I had not even thought about that. Look, Hef is the founder. He’s still creatively involved in everything and if he wants the wedding on the channel, if he wants it aired, we’d love to have it. There’s been no talk about having Hef’s wedding on the channel.


CraveOnline: What sort of scripted erotic dramas or comedies would you imagine doing on Playboy?


Gary Rosenson: We haven’t gone there yet. We would love to do a scripted series and there are a lot of interesting ideas.


CraveOnline: Would it have to compete with Rome, Spartacus, Californication?


Gary Rosenson: Entourage has a little nudity. We would love in the future to do scripted series that go a little bit further than HBO and Showtime do. Right now we’re just focused on more of the reality genres, but down the road we would love to do that. There actually is a separate show that I think NBC is doing that looks at the Playboy clubs done in sort of a Mad Men style which is really interesting when you think about that. I think they’re doing a pilot. That’s not my division.


CraveOnline: How about a superhero chick. Maybe sometimes she falls into the villain’s lair and oh no, her top came off?


Gary Rosenson: My best friend growing up owns Comic Fortress in New Jersey. I see him every time I go out east. That’s exactly what he always tells me and I believe it, 100%. There are a lot of guys who love the superhero or heroine fantasy. He always says the same thing, “You’ve got to do a scripted series.”


CraveOnline: Or maybe she fights the supervillain and oh no, both their tops come off!


Gary Rosenson: Yeah, there’s no question that we could go there because I don’t think you’re ever going to get that with the franchises protecting those.


CraveOnline: No, you make up your own character.


Gary Rosenson: You make up your own superheroes, right. It’s an interesting idea. He’s brought that up before, you’re bringing that up. I think there must be something to this.


CraveOnline: Are TV for 2 and Playboy TV in HD?


Gary Rosenson: We have an HD channel that unfortunately doesn’t have as much distribution today, but we’re going there. There is the desire for 2011 to get a meaningful amount of HD out there. There’s always bandwidth constraints that the cable and satellite operators have. They’ve all said Playboy HD makes total sense. I’m thinking this’ll be the year that we get more HD.


CraveOnline: How about 3D?


Gary Rosenson: We did a 3D test last year. We brought the cable and satellite operators to the Playboy mansion and demo’d the 3D for them there. They loved it. It’s just decisions that we’re making in terms of limited budget, what can we create within that limited budget that’s going to get the most bang for the buck. I’m sure you’ve heard this time and time again, it’s just starting so I know that the TV manufacturers would love us to do it because every new technology they always say is sold by adult content, whether it was the VHS and then the DVD player and then the internet. Yeah, they were all great products and what really drove it was guys searching for adult content so 3D for sure would help push a lot of 3D sets. So we did this test. We want to do more of it. Our test was basically a day in the life of playmates. We had to do it non nude just for the test because we wanted to showcase this to cable and satellite operators and get their sense of it. There were these two playmates rubbing oil on each other at the mansion next to the pool and blowing these bubbles. Then they were playing tennis. At night they’d pop the cork of a champagne bottle and then of course, the big finish, I wanted to be the first person ever to create a 3D pillow fight with feathers flying everywhere. So that might be my crowning achievement of all my days at Playboy. We have a 3D pillow fight with feathers flying everywhere in the bedroom. It’s fantastic.


CraveOnline: The feathers aren’t the 3D effect people are looking for though.


Gary Rosenson: No, sir, they’re not but again, we were doing a test for the cable and satellite ops. We needed to get them interested. With every new technology, if we’re putting it on the web, I don’t need buy in but I’m not the guy who does the web. We have a digital division that handles that. They may be the ones who’d be first out of the gate with 3D because they have unfettered access to just put up whatever they want.