Meet The Guy Who Changed Porn Forever

Nov 2, 2015
Adult Business News
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Online porn is at something of a crossroads. High-quality, high-def streaming adult videos are everywhere, but the margins for those who produce and perform are slim, and getting slimmer by the day. Earlier this month, Playboy announced its decision to get rid of naked photos, thanks, in part, to the saturation of tawdry free photos online. In a sprawling feature on the state of the industry, Wired declared that porn’s “very identity is being stolen as the world evolves both technologically and culturally.”

Basically: It’s getting a lot harder to make easy money selling pixelated sex online. And while porn’s tectonic cultural shifts are complex, they were largely set in motion by one man.

From 2010 to late 2013, Fabian Thylmann presided over the meteoric rise of a company called MindGeek, a collection of online adult streaming video (or “tube”) sites that became one of the largest and most powerful adult entertainment conglomerates ever assembled — and in turn, irrevocably influenced the course of countless business ventures and careers.

At various points, MindGeek (formerly called Manwin) has owned eight of the top ten tube sites, some of which are the most trafficked in the world. Outside observers have called MindGeek a monopoly and a vampiric hydra; industry producers have described it as a scourge, attributing it to the downfall of the adult industry’s famed profit margins. Among the changes Mindgeek has wrought: a glut of stolen content, now available for free on tube sites across the internet, and a 70% drop in revenue on standard pay sites, according to industry veteran Colin Rowntree. And while tube sites and producers dispute the business tactics behind porn’s shrinking margins, few debate that the landscape has been dramatically altered.

Thylmann himself is as controversial as his former company. Through one lens, he’s a prolific entrepreneur, working his way from an engineer to the architect of an adult empire. He secured major bank funding and bought up larger tube sites (YouPorn, another example) as well as major mainstream adult production studios (Babes.com, Digital Playground, Reality Kings, Twistys, Playboy’s online and TV studio arms). CNBC called Thylmann the “King of Porn” in 2012, but in some adult industry circles he’s reviled as “Porn Enemy Number One” (link is NSFW) for building out the tubes. He’s discussed sex worker issues at black-tie debates at Oxford, but he’s also been extradited to Germany from Belgium for tax evasion, for which he was formally indicted in 2015.

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