Playboy, the iconic media company that publishes Playboy magazine, is now accepting bitcoin payments for its adult entertainment content through at least one of its web properties.
Though not yet formally announced to the public, the payment option is currently live on the Playboy Plus website, and is available to those purchasing one-month, six-month and lifetime memberships through Georgia-based merchant processor BitPay.
Formerly the Playboy Cyber Club, according to its official Twitter account, Playboy Plus is an online component to Playboy magazine that provides original nude picture content.
Playboy's online branded assets are operated by Montreal-based adult entertainment conglomerate MindGeek, and as such, the bitcoin rollout appears to be part of a broader move toward acceptance from MindGeek, not necessarily Playboy.
The bitcoin payment option appears only accessible through plus.playboy.com, and does not appear when users are prompted for payment via the official Playboy website. iPlayboy, the company's online magazine archives, is not yet enabled with the payment option either as of press time.
Why MindGeek matters
While bitcoin's first association with the Playboy brand may grab the most headlines, the addition of MindGeek (formerly Manwin Group) to the bitcoin ecosystem is undoubtedly more significant.
MindGeek owns a number of major subsidiary brands, including Brazzers and Reality Kings - which themselves operate roughly 30 websites each. Further, MindGeek operates top brands such as YouPorn, PornHub.com and Mofos.
Avi Bitton, CTO of California-based adult movie studio Wicked Pictures, told CoinDesk that Playboy Plus is just the latest in what could become a measured rollout of the payment option across all of MindGeek's major websites, though he stopped short of confirming such plans.
"It's a payment option. Think of a large company that owns domains rolling out a payment option. You think that's going to probably percolate to multiple sites? That'd be a good framework for working things, right?"
Bitton describes himself as a bitcoin advocate and enthusiast working to facilitate adoption in the industry as a whole, though he is not affiliated with MindGeek or Playboy.
News of the MindGeek trial first serviced earlier this February via reddit user Bowiestar, who broke the news that IKnowThatGirl.com, a subsidiary of Mofos and MindGeek, was accepting bitcoin payments for membership plans. The Brazzers brand has been rumored to integrate bitcoin payments, but indications are it has not formally done so.
Speculation began after a reddit Ask Me Anything session in January, in which Brazzers responded cryptically to user questions about whether it would soon accept the digital currency.
Reddit user Bowiestar, who told CoinDesk he spoke with the Brazzers press team, indicated that if successful, the trial could roll out to more, or possibly all, of MindGeek's websites.
The IKnowThatGirl trial is also being facilitated by BitPay, adding evidence to the idea the company is conducting a measured rollout. Notably, both Porn.com and Naughty America, the two most recent additions to the list of bitcoin merchants in the adult industry, also accept bitcoin via BitPay.
Adding to confusion is that the Manwin brand is still displayed on the company's bitcoin payment prompts on Playboy Plus, despite the fact that the company recently rebranded as MindGeek.
Neither MindGeek nor Playboy responded to requests for further comment, though Bitton suggested that so far reception has been positive internally at MindGeek.
Users who want to purchase membership plans via IKnowThatGirl.com or Playboy Plus can do so by visiting the website and clicking to sign up for a subscription.
At this stage, users will be prompted to create an account and choose their payment method - credit card, check or bitcoin. The following was taken from IKnowThatGirl, though the Playboy Plus checkout is similar.
Bitcoin users will then need to enter their email address and select their membership plan. Options at IKnowThatGirl include a one-month membership for $39.95 or a year-long membership for $119.95. The lifetime membership on Playboy Plus is the most expensive package at $499.99.
Finally, users will be prompted with a QR code from BitPay to complete the transaction.
Adult entertainment websites seem increasingly inclined to test the waters with bitcoin payments, despite noted limitations with subscription payments. Coinbase offers periodic push payments, but these don't provide regular, automatic billing.
In recent weeks, Porn.com and Naughty America both began taking bitcoin, with Porn.com even increasing its sales by 10% with the payment option. Naughty America has declined to release exact figures, but has been enthusiastic about the results.
But, in terms of global web traffic, the addition of MindGeek's websites to the list of bitcoin merchants in the adult entertainment world would be significant.
According to lifestyle blog TheRichest:
"They are among the top three bandwidth consumption companies on Earth, operating more than 73 websites in all - free, paid and webcam. It has been reported that the company brings in over $200m annually."
In addition, the Playboy brand is likely to add validity to the movement given its leadership position in the industry.