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Playboy unveils for-pay site

Playboy Enterprises opens its Web-based subscription service, Cyber Club, the latest example of a well-known media brand undertaking a Web business venture.

Playboy Enterprises today opened its Web-based subscription service, Cyber Club, the latest example of a well-known media brand undertaking a Web business venture.

Visitors to Cyber Club will be required to provide basic information, including a credit card number. They will pay $6.95 a month, $18 a quarter, or $60 annually. Day passes will be available through micropayment service CyberCash. (ESPN SportsZone recently instituted a similar day pass using CyberCash technology on its subscriber-based service.)

Playboy's Cyber Club opened last November but was quickly forced to close down because traffic on the site overwhelmed its network. The relaunch date was targeted for March but has slipped until now.

The publisher's efforts have been closely watched, because only a handful of companies have leveraged their brands to launch pay-per-view sites on the Web. Most have established names such as the Wall Street Journal, Disney's Daily Blast, and ESPN.

Results have been mixed. Microsoft's Slate, for example, backed out of charging users for its content.

Service Price Subscribers
Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition $49/year
(for print subscribers)
ESPN SportsZone $39.95/year
Playboy $60/year
Disney's Daily Blast $4.95/month n/a
Microsoft Network $6.95/month
(not including Net access)
2.2 million
The WELL $10/month 11,000
Pathfinder Personal Edition $29.95/year

But analysts say Playboy stands a good chance of success because of its worldwide popularity. It's also no secret that adult material is among the most sought-after content on the Web.

"After months of hard work and testing, we're ready to open Cyber Club to the world," said Eileen Kent, vice president of new media for Playboy. "The success of the Playboy home page has convinced us that surfers everywhere will be just as enthusiastic about Cyber Club."

Playboy's home page is already one of the most popular on the Net, serving more than 1.4 million page views per day and more than 4.2 million visits monthly. The free site, with some 1,200 pages, generates revenue from advertising.

Cyber Club has some 50,000 pages, including photos of Playboy models, video clips of Playboy videos and TV shows, newsgroups licensed from the online community Well Engaged, chat rooms, and a "virtual tour" of the Playboy mansion. Live events will include chats with Playboy Playmates, celebrities, and company founder Hugh Hefner. The chat rooms features technology licensed from The Palace and ichat.

For those who say they only read Playboy for the articles, the site includes an archive of every Playboy interview published in the magazine, Playboy Advisor columns, and the Playboy sports page, which includes continuously updated scores supplied by CBS SportsLine.