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February 17, 2016

Falcon’s New Flight: Tim Valenti Redefines a Legacy Brand

This article originally ran in the February 2016 issue of AVN magazine. Click here to see the digital edition. Tim Valenti dramatically expanded his executive profile when he was recently named president of Falcon Studios Group, succeeding GAYVN Hall of Famer Chris Ward. Valenti was a logical choice. He’s a known quantity in his capacity as founder/president of VOD membership site NakedSword and senior vice president at parent company AEBN. However, it’s the first time the venerable brand founded more than four decades ago by the late Chuck Holmes—which now includes Falcon Studios as well as Hot House Entertainment and Raging Stallion Studios—has been led by someone who developed his name and reputation working on the internet side of the business, rather than as a performer or filmmaker. (In 2016, Valenti marks 20 years advocating for VOD and streaming video. He was a 2011 inductee into AVN’s Hall of Fame—Industry Founders branch.) Ward agreed to stay on until the end of 2015  to ease the transition. AVN spoke to Valenti shortly after the holidays as he was settling in behind the desk (“Chris is ready to get to France and drink more wine and write the great American novel,” Valenti said.) AVN: We caught you on your first day.VALENTI: You certainly did. Don’t give me too hard a time.What’s your first order of business?My first order of business is to gain the respect and trust of the folks that have been working so hard and so diligently over the last few years to keep the fires burning here at Falcon Studios Group, but (also) to do their best to keep up with what has been a tough business over the last few years. I don’t have any bad relationships with anybody at Falcon, but they’ve never worked with me straight-on, day-in-and-day out. And so my first order of business is to make sure everybody is on board and feeling good about my leadership. And then we can go from there. I obviously have a lot of ideas about the brands and where and how I think we should position them, and where and how I think the creative can be developed and distinguished better from other brands. All of that in time. But none of that can happen unless the folks you’re working with trust you and understand your reasoning. You are all located in the same building in San Francisco, correct?We’ve been in the same building for approximately one year. We occupied different floors. There really wasn’t a lot of integration between the staff other than Chris and I, obviously, having a lot of communication because we were both part of the executive team at AEBN. NakedSword was the first company to merge into AEBN in 2007. We were a gay network and what I did was advise AEBN on brands and talent that I believed should be part of the overall AEBN network. What that meant was Falcon and Raging Stallion, and eventually Hot House, coming into AEBN. They operated Hot House, Falcon and Raging Stallion under what they put together as the Falcon Studios Group. They were their own entity. They were primarily production. NakedSword has always been its own entity in that we are the largest membership VOD and streaming site. We’re also a production company. We also have our own tech division; we build our own products, like our white labels. So we’re a little bit more diverse of what we can do on our own.Will NakedSword and Falcon Studios Group now be more integrated?I think the smart thing to do is look at where there are good ways to integrate in terms of technology and some of the production. NakedSword has its own network, apart from Falcon Studios Group, that we manage and for which we produce and distribute content. We have over 200 other studios and 20,000 scenes and that’s what we do. I think that at NakedSword we define ourselves a little bit more broadly. We also have NakedSword Originals, which is our hardcore production; we have NakedSword Independents, which is essentially the indie movies and projects and shorts that we get involved with: “I Want Your Love,” “In Your Room” and the Seed Money documentary. We’re about to release a short called “100 Boyfriends.” Next month we’re filming a short in New York based on a stage play from Dublin, Ireland, that was brought to me about six months ago that I thought made for a really interesting NakedSword indie project. So we (have) a broader range while Falcon Studios Group is primarily hardcore production with three different brands. These are legacy brands. How do you define them in 2016?I think that is going to be a big part of our own self-examination as a group. Based on market conditions, I think some of the consolidation that happened with the brands needed to happen from a financial perspective. I think there are still really good, strong ways to distinguish the brands. I believe in that. That will be one of the things that we really look hard at in 2016. And I think we’ll see some difference in really defining the brands individually. There’s no question it’s a challenge. I think that’s one of the reasons they asked me to be the president of Falcon Studios Group. The reason, I feel, why NakedSword is so successful and why we’re still here is because we’ve never been afraid to take a look at ourselves and reinvent ourselves. That is what I am going to bring to the next few years at Falcon Studios Group—to really examine who we are, who these brands are. It is more difficult because they are legacy brands. There is a demographic, a certain part of our audience, that expects things to be a certain way. And then there’s a growing part for whom that legacy means nothing. But they’re such rich brands and they were so successful in the periods they were at their height that we can go back at look at the things they did that made them different. I think there are markets for that. Again, what this group has had to contend with over the past few years with shrinking market share, free porn, all of it, is pretty remarkable. They banded together and they were able to keep production at the level it’s always been and be a very profitable company at a time when a lot of companies are not profitable. There’s a lot to work with (here). My personal challenge is handling it all. I have to ask: considering everything that’s on your plate, are you still going to do internet talk/variety program “The Tim & Roma Show”? We’ll still do specials from time-to-time. One of the things that’s exciting about NakedSword this year is that we’re developing a couple of new shows that will be the “Tim & Roma” of 2016. That served its purpose for sure. But (co-host Sister Roma and I) just like getting together and gabbing so we’ll probably do some fun things from time-to-time. But we have a whole slate of indie, fun mini-documentaries and programs that we’re developing. So where there was once just “Tim & Roma” there will be other types of non-hardcore programs and entertainment on NakedSword.

 
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