Playboy Celebrates ‘Safe for Work’ Transition With a Massive Push Into Original Video

First-ever originals slate includes 14 shows

Playboy showed off its new, fully clothed self during its first-ever NewFronts presentation Friday afternoon at New York's Skylight Modern.

"This is the most exciting and complex brand transformation of my career," said CEO Scott Flanders kicking off the 30-minute presentation. He added that Playboy won't look too different. The men's magazine still features its Playmates, whom Flanders called the "single best brand ambassadors."

The iconic 63-year-old lad mag is doubling down on its transition into a millennial male lifestyle publisher in the vein of Esquire or GQ. "At our core, we're for men that are interested in women and who want to be interesting to women," Playboy's chief digital officer, Phillip Morelock, told Adweek prior to the NewFronts presentation.

And, like most publishers these days, that includes a heavy push into video. Playboy's inaugural original video slate is broken up into five verticals: Lifestyle, Documentaries, Food and Spirits, Gaming, and Scripted Comedy.

Designer and Wes Anderson collaborator Waris Ahluwalia—who emceed the event today—will host a dinner party series. The first episode features Natasha Lyonne, Horatio Sanz, Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon and filmmaker Liz Goldwyn. There will also be a behind-the-scenes series, The Life of Playboy, about the editing process of the magazine's lifestyle section. Though Morelock said Playboy won't wade too far into virtual reality, it will have one show, Tech 360, in which tech blogger Jon Rettinger and model Amy Willerton visit some of the most hallowed tech destinations. Other series include:

  • YouTube star Peter Czerwinski will host a cooking and dating show called Dinner Date with Furious Pete.
  • Molecular gastronomist Wylie Dufresne and molecular mixologist Dave Arnold will host a Mythbusters-style show.
  • Facebook and Vine star Jon Paul Piques will helm a scripted comedy series.
  • YouTube sensation Mr. Sark will host a gaming series.

And what's Playboy without at least one show fronted by a Playboy Playmate? Pamela Horton will host Gamer Next Door, which will catch up with influencers in the gaming community.

"The presence of influencers that brands have been working with in our programming will be further validation of the change that we've made," said Morelock.

Playboy will also launch its own branded content studio, headed up by the magazine's deputy editor, Hugh Garvey. The goal is to further cement itself as a full-fledged media company that courts big time advertisers like Dodge, which bought a gatefold ad in Playboy's inaugural nude-free issue.

Garvey wears words like "dangerous," "provocative" and "rebel" proudly. "At Playboy we take that as a compliment," he said.

"Perhaps if you want to sell the same toothpaste the same way you've sold it for the last 10 years, Playboy isn't the partner for you," Morelock added. "We do things that are a little bit more interesting and different."

As reports surface that the brand may be for sale, Playboy's new direction has already been paying dividends. Morelock said first-quarter ad revenue was up 75 percent from a year earlier. "We are seeing phenomenal growth just as we thought we would," he said.