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I've been sent chain emails about pornography industry revenues and was quite flabbergasted by some of the figures. The version I recalled hearing was that pornography brings in more revenue than all US sports franchises combined. I looked around for some quotes so I could ask about this here, and it turns out that there are several related stats, so I included them all:

Bigger than all sports franchises in the US combined:

The sex industry is HUGE - $57 Billion Worldwide, $12+ Billion in the United States. It is larger than all the sport franchises put together. (SOURCE)

Adult entertainment model Jasmine Mai told the BBC: "The adult industry is bigger than every professional sport combined. (SOURCE)

Bigger than all top technology companies combined:

The pornography industry is larger than the revenues of the top technology companies combined: Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo!, Apple, Netflix and EarthLink (SOURCE)

Bigger than top television broadcasting channels combined:

US porn revenue exceeds the combined revenues of ABC, CBS, and NBC. (SOURCE)


Question: Does the pornography industry have higher earnings than the respective combined earnings of US sports franchises, top tech companies, and top broadcasting networks (ABC/NBC/CBS)?

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  • The only one I can see being plausible being the broadcasting networks.
    – Chad
    Commented Jul 5, 2011 at 20:59
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    you're assuming that "sex industry" == "porno industry", which is wrong.
    – vartec
    Commented Jul 6, 2011 at 7:50
  • @vartec: where am I assuming that? The quote above might, but variations exist explicitly comparing pornography to all sports, such as HERE, HERE, and HERE. The last also includes a surprisingly detailed debunking!
    – Hendy
    Commented Jul 7, 2011 at 2:50
  • The basic problem with the question is the lack of a reliable source for the size of the porn industry. See, for example, this old answer to a related question which has a far smaller number: skeptics.stackexchange.com/a/8585/3943
    – matt_black
    Commented Dec 15, 2022 at 12:30
  • @matt_black it might be a problem with answering the question, but is it actually a problem with the question? Well known claims have been made, I was skeptical about them, so I asked. I think a valid answer would actually be showing that there is no such denominator, which would debunk the claim as believable (as how could the claimant know?).
    – Hendy
    Commented Dec 20, 2022 at 0:21

2 Answers 2

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The sex industry is HUGE - $57 Billion Worldwide, $12+ Billion in the United States. It is larger than all the sport franchises put together

The NFL had 7.2 Billion In gross revenue in 2010 [ Source ]

The MLB had 6.6 Billion in revenue in 2009 [ Source ]

The NHL projected about 2.7 Billion in revenue for the 2009-2010 season [ SOURCE ]

These totals would exceed the "$12+ Billion in the United States" cited by the source with out including Nascar (I can find claims of around 3 billion with no source but seems reasonable), Golf, Tennis, Other racing ( I would love to see statistics of all the revenue from the local tracks ), or any of the less followed sports.

Then there is that one sport with the usually white and black truncated icosahedron shaped ball that a handful of people follow around the world... ($216B world wide) [ SOURCE ] thats almost 4x the estimate from the post.

Bigger than all top technology companies combined:

Apple had 65 Billion in sales in 2010 [ SOURCE ]

Microsoft had 62 Billion [ Source ]

Google had 29 Billion [ SOURCE ]

So I think that compared to the 57 billion thats busted. Even if it has duobled since 2005 these 3 still beat it. (No pun intended)

Bigger than top television broadcasting channels combined:

Comcast(NBC) had revenues of almost 38 billion [ SOURCE ]

Disney(ABC) and revenues of 38 billion [ SOURCE ]

Viacom(CBS) had revenues of 14 billion ins 2008 (for ease since it gets messy with mergers and sales) [ SOURCE ]

While Disney is more than just ABC, and Comcast is more than just NBC, Viacom is just a broadcast company. It alone exceeded the 12 billion quoted above for the US.

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    +1, especially for finding the football source. As a side note, traditional football has white hexagons and black pentagons, modern footballs aren't made of leather anymore.
    – vartec
    Commented Jul 6, 2011 at 15:12
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    I wonder: is the $57 Billion Worldwide figure even accurate?
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Jul 6, 2011 at 15:16
  • @Sklivvz - It was the claim by the original poster and the claim by an industry opposition. I did try to source some back up but most searches i did tended to lead to sites i did not wish to visit. Seeing as most adult film companies are not publicly traded they do not have to disclose their income.
    – Chad
    Commented Jul 6, 2011 at 15:30
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    Ten years after the fact correction: The football (aka soccer ball in the US) has 32 faces, 12 of which are pentagons and 20 of which are hexagons. The technical term for this shape is a truncated icosahedron. (This question came up as "related question" to a recently unrelated question.) Commented Nov 8, 2022 at 14:52
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    @Chad Qatar has reportedly spent over 200 billion US dollars on this World Cup (some say 300 billion), for a reasonable reason. The worldwide revenues from the Men's World Cup alone is staggering compared to the worldwide revenues from porn. Over the course of four years, people pay a lot of money to watch friendlies, qualifying matches, more friendlies, and then the Cup itself. Add in travel, boarding, auxiliary costs, etc., and the amounts spent are beyond huge. Commented Dec 9, 2022 at 11:15
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The sex industry is HUGE - $57 Billion Worldwide [...] The pornography industry is larger than the revenues of the top technology companies combined: Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo!, Apple, Netflix and EarthLink

Even assuming that $57 billion figure is true, not only is it not bigger than all of the companies combined, it's not even bigger than just one of them. Microsoft's revenue for 2010 was $62.4 billion.


As for being bigger than all professional sport, here are some figures:

  • total US sports industry is estimated to have a revenue of $414bn;
  • MLB ($6.8bn) + NFL ($7.8bn) + NBA ($4.0bn) + NHL ($3.0bn) = $21.6bn; which is far more than $12bn; estimated for US sex industry. And that's just 4 leagues, not all professional sport.
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    +1 for noticing that. Additionally, comparing an entire industry to a particular company seems weak since the sex industry appears to have a lot of small players -- "Playboy" is a name that I would consider to be one of the big players: google.com/finance?q=NYSE:PLA.A Commented Jul 6, 2011 at 1:20
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    -1 because because you are combining factoids from two different links/sources: just because one of them is false doesn't require the other one to be false too; and/or perhaps the two sources are each using different measures of "the pornography industry".
    – ChrisW
    Commented Jul 6, 2011 at 2:08
  • @ChrisW the source he is refuting is the original poster's claim. Though as I think about it im not sure you couldnt say that some of MS's revenue is at least indirectly a result of the sex industry.
    – Chad
    Commented Jul 6, 2011 at 13:12
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    @Chad - Two claims from two different sources: a) "Sex = $57B"; and b) "Bigger than top tech companies". The two claims seem to contradict each other but that doesn't necessarily mean that they're both false.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Jul 6, 2011 at 13:27
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    @ChrisW well the poster is the one claiming the 57b world wide in the sex industry. I dont see why vartec deserves the vote down for the original poster's claim.
    – Chad
    Commented Jul 6, 2011 at 14:19

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