STAR India has quietly launched, over the past couple of weeks, websites for its TV channels: STAR One, STAR Plus and STAR Jalsha, and also appears to have done a revamp of its portal for Channel [V] India, at least, since last we saw its Bloody Beta version. Separate sites also exist for channels STARWorld and STARMovies, and we wouldn’t be surprised if sites are also being developed for other channels like STAR Utsav, STAR Gold, and most importantly, its Hindi news channel, STAR News.

The channel sites showcase video, and full episodes of TV serials have been made available online. But what I couldn’t understand, is what STAR is trying to do with its websites: is it focusing on its channels as brands, and trying to create websites for fans; sites that give them a sense of belonging, where they can interact with their favorite TV stars, get behind the scenes content, say things that may actually influence the direction that a particular TV show is taking? In other words, via these sites, is STAR (or the TV producers) listening to their viewers, or is this merely one way communication? The STAR sites still have that ‘placeholder’ feel to them, and the rationale behind how STAR has linked to some of the content isn’t very clear to me:

— Video linkages: Links on the site lead users unexpectedly to other STAR portals: videos from STAR One lead to STARPlayer, while at STAR Jalsha, they keep you within the same site, powered by STARBoxOffice. STARBoxOffice (which the URL of a now defunct STAR portal http://videoontherocks.com leads to), which appears to have evolved into a fan site for Bollywood and TV stars.

— Discussions and Fan clubs: The discussions/forum links invariably lead you to this standard deployment of vbulletin on Indya.com, which lacks the finesse and the individual branding that pervades the sites one comes from. You don’t expect such lack of attention towards branding from a big media house like STAR. Clicking on fan club links at STAR One takes you to profile pages on STAR Box Office; shouldn’t these be within the STAR One website? At the same time, on some of their websites, they have Facebook fan pages for channels. Why not keep STAR Box Office as the standard fan site, and have Facebook integration?

In terms of content, there appears to be lack of depth too. Maybe it’s too early to judge these sites, since they’ve just been launched, and strategies for each are probably still being finalized; in which case, we’re open to STAR India explaining how things work to us.

But what I really can’t figure out, is why Indya.com looks like it’s been left fallow all these years, stuck in 2005. Reflects very poorly on STAR India.