How Does the Porn Industry Make Money?


Let’s face it: hundreds of millions of people have watched pornography at one point. Millions more continue to watch pornography on a semi-regular basis. In fact, around 68% of young adult men and 18% of women watch porn at least once a week.

Most of these viewers, however, aren’t paying for porn. Seeing as it’s 2017 and the vast majority of online pornography is free, the average pornography viewer relies on ad-ridden “tube” sites to get their kicks.

Yet even though most porn consumers don’t pay a dime, the adult entertainment industry still rakes in billions each year. In the United States alone, porn is a $10 to $15 billion-a-year business, according to a report from the University of Texas. Porn actors and actresses are still paid a decent amount, though significantly less than traditional actors and with longer hours. Thanks to cheaper, better cameras and post-production software, creating pornographic films and media costs less than it did even a decade ago.

So how is porn still worth billions. Better yet, how are porn companies making so much money? Let’s take a look.

Subscriptions, traditional media, and pay-per-view

One could easily watch porn through a basic internet search, but there are still millions of viewers paying to do so. Porn sites still have countless subscribers paying a flat fee each month to access content. Adult video stores still exist around the country (link NSFW) and sell single videos for a significant markup when compared to traditional home media. While the pay-per-view business took a significant hit thanks to the internet, people are still buying pornography through their cable provider or hotel. You might not pay for it, but countless others are keeping the industry afloat thanks to their monetary contributions.

Ads and more ads

Free pornography isn’t free. Sure, you may not pay anything, but you’ll be hit with a constant barrage of banner ads, pop-up ads, pop-under ads, and in-video ads. These ads help pay the bills to keep the “tube” sites running, while also helping premium paid sites bring in new subscribers. If hundreds of millions of people are viewing these sites with multiple pages at a time, and each page continues at least six or so ads, then you have an idea of the enormous amount of ad impressions each site gets.

Private lenders and IPOs

When adult entertainment companies want to take out a loan, they can’t go to a traditional bank. Instead, they seek out private lenders willing to lend large amounts of money with high interest rates. These lenders are legitimate businessmen, and pornography companies are legitimate companies; they just have a bit more trouble borrowing money due to the nature of their business. Both parties sign a legally binding document with lawyers present, and money is exchanged.

Some adult entertainment companies actually go public and raise money by selling stock. FriendFinder Networks, former owners of Penthouse, is one of the more notable companies to sell stock, though they were delisted a few years ago and filed for bankruptcy.

Acquisitions and licensing

MindGeek, a privately held company, notably acquired all free porn “tube” sites over the last several years. Seeing as the porn industry was moving towards a free ad-supported model, this was a smart move on their part. Eventually, the company acquired notable porn sites as well, letting them make money off subscriptions while adding content to their free sites to entice repeat visits.

Paid premium sites not owned by free porn sites regularly license their content to tube sites. This allows paid sites to add clips and attract new subscribers. It also lets them make money off of views of their content on ad-supported sites.


Can you invest in pornography? While a few “sin stocks” exist in the adult entertainment industry, most porn companies are privately owned. MindGeek happens to be one of the biggest companies in said industry, and if they opt to go public in the future, they would likely be a stock market success due to their percentage of the market share. Until that happens, you might have to invest elsewhere.


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