CHATSWORTH, Calif. - Vivid Entertainment is easily the most recognizable name in adult, and as such, the person responsible for selling its movies to the world has got to be one colorful and charismatic individual.
For many years, that person was Howard Levine, a sort of cult figure in his own right within the business. In August, Levine moved out of the position of National Sales Manager for Vivid proper, shifting his energies exclusively to sister labels Club Jenna and Reality Kings.
Into Levine's place — as well as that of national sales manager for Teravision — stepped David Peskin, a longtime friend and colleague, and a man who, if you speak with him for a good minute or two, will strike you right off as having been cut from the same cloth.
Prior to entering the porn industry, Peskin was a salesman for a clothing manufacturer. "I hated what I was doing," he said. "I didn't know a thing about women's clothing, and had an opportunity to go work for family in the adult industry in the mid '90s."
And so, he continued, "I started about 1995 to 2002 to work in the industry, including launching a new line of videos and eventually starting my own company for a brief period before I had an opportunity to work for Vivid."
It was Levine who brought Peskin into the fold. "Howard was a very close friend of mine for a lot of years, I was looking for a new challenge, and they had just moved over into their new distribution deal," Peskin explained. "And Howard gave me the opportunity to work for Vivid and join him in sales."
In January, Peskin will celebrate his five-years anniversary with Vivid, and he seemingly couldn't be happier. "I love sales, I love the industry," he said. "It's a close-knit industry, everybody sticks together. We unite on important issues — the government, HIV threats. I feel fortunate to be a part of the adult industry, and have an opportunity to sell the product that I do, Vivid product and Teravision product."
That last remark does bring up an interesting question: Why the musical chairs with sales responsibilities at the company? Said Peskin, "I think we were split in too many ways. We had the multiple offerings from Vivid plus Teravision and Club Jenna, Filthy Films and the Reality Kings. We felt that if we divided the product lines we could each have a sharper focus on our responsibilities.”
Still, what did it feel like for Peskin to fill Levine's shoes? Surely, that was a daunting order at the very least. "Howard's a legend in the business, and still remains a very close friend," Peskin said. "He's been a mentor, with Steven [Hirsch, Vivid's co-chairman]. I can't even say how much I learned from him, not just how to sell the Vivid product, but then the promoting of it and the relationships. Big shoes to fill. Fortunately, I have a size 13 foot. But we still work very closely together."
Among the many hurdles presented by the position, Peskin feels, is the ever-increasing challenge "to keep your DVD sales, which is still our bread and butter; having the numbers be there and justify your production costs, and then having the other revenue streams not cannibalize the DVD sales. It's a time where you really need to come up with innovative ways to stay ahead of what's happening in the marketplace.
"We want the retailer to succeed," he went on, "and we've come up with some new programs, and we're also close to being ready with a new program to give the retailer an online presence. And we'll be working that with the distributors, as well."
Another part of the plan is continuing to develop Vivid's VoD channels. "I've handled Vivid VoD for over fours years now," Peskin said, "and I'm confident that we truly have the most supportive programs for retailers when it comes to our VoD."
But the bottom line, as far as Peskin sees it, is "diversifying our product offerings. It's appealing not just to [couples], but it's also now appealing to niche audiences, which happen to be very sizable markets. And I think Steven has an uncanny finger on the pulse of what's happening in the marketplace. How Steven does it, I can't reveal, but he has helped me with his unique perspective to see the big picture."
For the future, Peskin concluded, "I'd like to grow in my role as national sales manager of the largest adult entertainment company in the world, and I'm fortunate to have the support system with Steven and Marci [Hirsch, VP of production and Steven's sister] and everyone at Pulse Distribution, and I just see this as a time for out-of-the-box, innovative ways of thinking and ideas to help the retailer succeed and to increase our sales. And I'm excited about this new beginning and opportunity to work closer to Steven and help this company grow to the next level."