Dec 10, 2008

Business - Celebs cash in on image downloads

Did you know that every time you download an image of your favourite celebrity, like MS Dhoni or Sachin Tendulkar, on your cellphone, you could be directly making the person richer by a rupee or two?

Value Added Services (VAS) companies are experimenting with new revenue models, which include tying up with popular personalities from various walks of life to get an exclusive copyright of their images and pay them a 20-30% royalty per download.

In effect, this means that the higher the number of downloads a celeb registers, the fatter his pocket gets.

For instance, Nazara Technologies, a VAS firm recently signed an exclusive content deal with actor Sameera Reddy. The company also has the most sought after cricketers like MS Dhoni, Sachin Tendulkar, and Virender Sehwag, among others, in its kitty.

MS Dhoni, hugely popular among youngsters, accounts for a significant share of image downloads, in the range of 50,000 to 1 lakh downloads every month. That translates into a monthly earning of up to Rs 3 lakh for Dhoni, only from image downloads, considering each image download costs Rs 10.

Surprisingly, a lot of Bollywood celebrities are yet to jump onto the wagon to cash in on this opportunity.

"Since this is a relatively new concept, not all film personalities are aware of this arrangement. Also a lot of images of movie stars that get downloaded are sourced from production houses, which hold the copyright to photographs of stars from their films. But surely, more and more stars are catching up with the concept," said Nitish Mittersain, CEO of Nazara. He believes that the arrival of 3G services will instill a fresh lease of growth impetus by enabling companies like his to develop and sell high-end value-added services.

Expectedly, in the realm of value-added services, it is content related to ABC (astrology, Bollywood and cricket) which have the highest demand, with D (devotion) now working very well with Indian audiences, according to Dippak Khurana, head, content and international business, Mauj, another leading VAS company. This sentiment is shared by most other players.

However, in case of image downloads, it is cricket and Bollywood that score over other genres, with industry watchers claiming that Katrina Kaif and Dhoni are the hot favourites. Mauj has tied up with magazines like Gladrags, Maxim and FHM for content and Aditya Music, Sony BMG and NMI for music.

It sources film content from distribution companies such as Eros and regional film distributors for localised content. Nazara, on the other hand, has signed an exclusive deal with Vishwanathan Anand to launch a virtual chess game on the mobile platform. It already has tie-ups with magazines like Stardust.

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