Steve Hirsch to Receive First Visionary Award at AVN Awards

CHATSWORTH, Calif.—AVN Media Network is proud to announce that Vivid Entertainment co-chairman Steve Hirsch will be the recipient of the first-ever Visionary Award at the 2012 AVN Awards. This special award was created to recognize and honor a leader in adult entertainment who has propelled innovation and taken his company—and the business as a whole—to new heights.

“I’m honored and excited to accept the award, not only for myself, but this is really for the entire team of people who we’ve been fortunate enough to work with for the past 27 years,” Hirsch told AVN. “So I look at this as an award for the company, more than I do for myself personally, though I’m happy to accept it.”

Hirsch founded Vivid 27 years ago with a partner, and released its first movie in 1984: Ginger, starring the studio’s first contract girl, Ginger Lynn. Since then, the studio has changed not only the way movies were shot but also the way they were marketed, packaged and sold.

Hirsch’s and Vivid’s list of “firsts” and innovative business applications for adult is long, but a few of the company’s most “ahead of the curve” accomplishments include the first wave of branded contract girl superstars; creating a new style of box covers; being featured on two reality shows on Showtime; being the first adult company have a billboard on Sunset Boulevard; becoming the first adult production company to own a hardcore cable network bringing XXX content to people’s TVs; the first to hire a mainstream publicist to court press; the force behind moving the celebrity sex tape into the spotlight with Pam & Tommy Lee: Hardcore and Uncensored; one of the first adult companies to produce DVDs; and many more.

From the beginning it was clear that Vivid would be a company that sought to successfully apply a mainstream Hollywood marketing approach to reach consumers on a big scale.  

"When I heard that AVN was creating a Visionary Award and giving it to Steve Hirsch, I thought it was a perfect idea," AVN founder Paul Fishbein said. "Nobody in the modern era of the adult industry has been more innovative in mainstreaming their company image than Vivid. That made them one of the premier brands in all of Hollywood, adult or otherwise. Steve and the company are truly deserving of this achievement."

For Hirsch, the adult entertainment business was in his blood. His father, Fred, produced 8mm stag films and young Steve helped him out. But it was his sales job at Cal Vista in the early 1980s when Hirsch first saw the opportunity to create something new and bring porn out of the shadows and into the spotlight.

Hirsch is more than happy to share the credit for his company’s success with the many talented and dedicated people he’s employed, from his sister Marci, who supervises production, to Paul Thomas, who directed two movies per month for the company from 1986 to 2008.

“A big part of our success comes from the fact that when you find talented people it’s important not to micromanage them and to allow them to be themselves,” he said. “And that’s when people are at their best—when you empower them.”

Lately, Hirsch has been the go-to guy for mainstream media seeking commentary on the adult business. And he has continued to make headlines for releasing celebrity sex tapes and fielding offers to mainstream personalities. His media savvy and knack for generating headlines that further propel his company into the mainstream is second to none. 

“Ultimately, all of that press is great, but if you don’t have the quality product to back it up it doesn’t matter,” Hirsch said. “You can’t have one without the other. You can have all the media attention you want, but if the product isn’t satisfying, then people will leave. Luckily we have incredibly talented people making great adult products, so we have a loyal core audience in addition to tapping into consumers who are new to adult entertainment.”

Certainly, Vivid has recognized trends in adult content early on and capitalized on them. Vivid Alt, Vivid Ed, Vivid Celeb and Vivid SuperXXXheroes are all examples of giving new types of content a bigger platform and creating a larger audience for them.

For a company that prides itself on climbing to the top of the mountain first and letting others follow, Hirsch sees plenty of opportunity to expand in the adult space. The company embraced technology early on and plans on exploiting emerging distribution platforms for years to come. 

“There’s lots of opportunity out there,” he said. “Certainly mobile is part of it, IPTV is very interesting to us, which both go along with creating unique product, and that’s what we’ll continue to do. The market is there. There’s a big TV business, still, and internet business out there, a growing mobile business, an IPTV business that’s ramping up, and we’re in a great position to leverage our assets and take advantage of all of it. The brand really helps us. The way it’s respected and positioned afford us opportunities other people aren’t.

“We’ve been around now almost three decades and it’s difficult to keep reinventing yourself, but I think we’ve been successful at it,” Hirsch continued. “We’re viewed as a company that continues to innovate, and I’m happy with our perception. We’ll continue to hold ourselves to a high standard.”

Hirsch will be accepting his Visionary Award in-person at the AVN Awards, which take place Jan. 21 at The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

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