After more than seven years of trading, VOD specialists Strictly Broadband and sister site Anywhere.xxx have closed their affiliate programmes as the company as an on-going business – in the UK – is shut down. Earlier this year Strictly Broadband MD Jerry Barnett [pictured], who is also the current chair of trade body AITA, warned that it would be “impossible” to run a UK-based VOD business and comply with regulations introduced by ATVOD [the Authority for Television on Demand – the independent co-regulator for the editorial content of UK video on demand services].
Following the closure, Barnett told ETO’s Paul Smith: “The real story isn’t what’s happened to us, it’s ATVOD, which has made difficult trading conditions unmanageable. It’s a shame the wider industry and media has essentially ignored this. Basically there’s an on-going, all-out attack on the adult industry which, since it was launched by ATVOD, has forced several websites to close and driven others out of the UK. Strictly Broadband – with Anywhere.xxx – is just the latest in a series of firms to have to take this radical step. To move forward, and continue a service for our content providers and paying customers, the business has been sold to a US start-up firm called Velvet Rose which is a real shame, not just for the me, but for the staff who’ve I’ve had to let go, and for the UK treasury as the PAYE and VAT I was paying them now goes elsewhere.”
He continued: “The decision to close was basically triggered by a letter from ATVOD at the start of August, which gave us a strict schedule to comply with their demands. Demands that I maintain are very unreasonable. It was the final nail in the coffin. The business has been scraping by for the last couple of years – a situation we’ve been able to manage better than some other UK VOD suppliers – but to comply with ATVOD… Well, it was a cost issue. There was no way to make the figures add up to a viable UK business.
“Sales have been on a long-term decline anyway, but the hard deadline from ATVOD gave us no time for a wind-down. Closing the affiliate programme, and all associated White Label versions of the site branded for UK businesses, was an unfortunate, but necessary step towards liquidating the UK company. We’ll enter into a voluntary agreement with creditors rather than call in an Official Receiver. The only upside of this that I can see is we no longer have to pay ATVOD’s fees, so are no longer helping to fund their barely disguised attack on the UK adult industry. They know exactly what they’re doing. I’ve been face to face with Pete Johnson [ATVOD’s chief executive, formerly head of policy and business development at the BBFC] and it’s clear he’s casting his net very wide. Wider than his remit, I think, which is why a legal challenge is not out of the question.”
More on this story can be found in the October issue of ETO.