The score thus far: Sunny Leone – 3 lakh, Sachin Tendulkar – 1 lakh. Adult entertainment star Sunny Leone is ruling India’s mobile screens with her official mobile app which is far more popular than the official app of the recently-retired cricket superstar Sachin Tendulkar.
Within a month of its launch, Leone’s free-to-download app is seeing 10,000-12,000 downloads daily and has already crossed 3 lakh downloads. Also free, Sachin Tendulkar’s app on the other hand, was launched in November last year, and is being downloaded about 3,000 times a day. It has totalled 1 lakh downloads so far.
Both celebrity apps were released by top Indian free video-on-demand mobile TV service, the Gurgaon-based ZengaTV. The service generates 300 million video views a month, mostly from its 19 million unique users in India. It has exclusive digital rights for both celebrities.
Those who download the Leone app expecting to view hardcore adult content, of the type that she has become famous for, will be disappointed. In keeping with Indian laws, the app will provide legitimate, above-board material — her interviews, movie videos (“Sunny Leone on Tamil movie set in Thailand”), travel blogs (“Sunny Leone in Hawaii”) and social media content, all integrated into one app.
The popularity of the two apps illustrates a larger change: Indians are turning into some of the world’s most ravenous consumers of digital content even as the country’s smartphone user base rockets. In the last two years, action on mobile screens has doubled as compared to live TV screens as users watch content on-the-go at their own free time, say reports.
There is more growth around the corner. Later this year, India will become the world’s second largest base of internet users, crossing 300 million users, driven mostly through cellphone access, overtaking the United States and second only to China.
ZengaTV’s CEO Abhishek Joshi says that 28 per cent of mobile video users in India state that their traditional television viewing has decreased, a steeper fall than in many Western markets. He cites Nielsen Mobile’s data that close to 40 per cent of Indians’ “media interactions” will occur on smartphones and users spend 160 minutes a day on their cellphones, more than the time they spend watching TV.
Joshi calls Sunny Leone’s official app a “mindblowing success”. “She is obviously a people magnet,” he says. Leone has become something of a mega celebrity in India, her reputation as a top global porn star preceding her to India and turning her Bollywood (Jism 2) and television (reality show Big Boss) appearances into money-spinners. Worldwide, on the internet pornography is the most profitable content category.
Both the Leone and Tendulkar official apps are owned by the stars themselves and produced by ZengaTV on a revenue sharing basis. As they are free to download, profits come from advertising.
Both apps can be downloaded on basic phones with a simple internet connection. “Nearly half our audience is from rural and small town India,” says Joshi. ZengaTV’s next celebrity app release will be that of chef Sanjeev Kapoor.
Despite the heartening numbers, the five-year-old mobile content industry has its share of challenges. “For streaming videos and mobile entertainment to become mainstream, quality of bandwidth has to improve,” says Joshi.