STAR India has launched the Star Plus app for iPhone and iPad (download), to allow viewers of the general entertainment tv channel to access a live stream, latest show episodes, program schedule and other content including character bios, pictures galleries and audio blogs. There are two different apps for each device, and not a universal one, and each comes at a price of $0.99. Surprisingly, the app is not available in the US App Store, so it’s mainly restricted to Indian users, and has been the top download in the Indian app store. This is quite the opposite of what Lalit Bhagi, VP- New Media, Star India, had said in a previous interview to MediaNama.
This might also be because of the licensing terms of the content. So this is not targeted the Indian diaspora living overseas (although it’s easy to make an Indian account and download the app). We also wonder, though at the risk of sounding judgmental, how many amongst the target audience, would actually have access to an iPad or an iPhone?
Star did take the risk of making Star Plus a paid app but it is a one time cost, and will be the only monetization source, since the app is ad-free. Also, iPad/iPhone users are more open to paying for apps. We still doubt if Star would ever release a paid app on Android.
Although broadcast networks and cable companies offer apps for tv viewing in the US and other mature markets, a majority of them charge monthly subscriptions or pay per view rentals.A reason why a subscription based model won’t work in India is the fact that the number of iPad/tablet and smart phone users in India is low and most would have access to the channel through cable or DTH.
So monthly rentals for content are unlikely to work, specially when 3G tariffs are expensive, coverage is spotty at best, and free public Wifi almost inexistent.This is also why mobile tv did not find many takers. But with individual networks coming out with their own apps, and offering live streams, we wonder what will happen to mobile TV players like Apalya, Geodesic, Zenga and DigiVive which aggregate tv content and offer it through operators or independently.
We tested the Star Plus app on an iPad (first generation), with WiFi connectivity. The app runs only in landscape orientation, and is all decked up in red, in line with the network’s colour scheme.
The main screen features carrousel based interfaces for browsing through the channel’s various shows and lead characters. It also features controls for accessing the channel’s live stream, program schedule, gallery, videos, news and an engage section which features opinion polls.The main menu moves to the top when one enters a section.
The app features the following sections:
– Shows: Individual shows have dedicated sections where users can browse through information about characters including their audio blogs, a picture gallery, videos including the last three episodes of the show and related news. Controls for browsing these sub-sections replace the main menu controls of the home screen, giving a uniform, albeit a bit confusing look. Integration with E-mail, Facebook and Twitter is present throughout, so users can share individual content or an entire section with their social network connections. The news sub-section is in a flip-book/magazine layout, where users can flip pages to browse related news articles.
– Schedule: This section offers a three day program schedule.
– Gallery: Picture galleries related to individual shows. Essentially links to the gallery sub-section of a show.
– News: Features news related to shows in a magazine format. Users can also post comments or check comments posted by other users.
– Engage: Features some opinion polls related to shows and characters.
– User Friendly UI: The app is well designed with a user friendly interface involving the use of carrousels and large icons, taking full advantage of the iPad’s screen real estate and touch capabilities.
– Stability: Although we did not face problems navigating the different sections, the app did crash twice during our use. Since, it;s a full release and not a beta, we expect the app to not crash at all.
– Video streaming quality is good: The quality of the video stream was good on a 2Mbps broadband connection. The videos played without buffering. Videos can also be viewed full screen, however, there is pixelation as the resolution is not optimised for full screen viewing.
– Supports iOS Muti-tasking: The app takes advantage of iOS’ multitasking/app switching feature and resumes from the state that it was left in.
– Ad-free: There are no in-app ads. The videos featured in the app are also ad free. But then this is a paid app so we expected it to be ad-free.
– Program schedule could be extended to seven days and a reminder feature with integration to Google calendar and e-mail can be offered.
– An HD stream could be offered for users of high bandwidth connections, specially for full screen viewing.
– A bookmarking/favorites functionality can be included to save individual episodes.
– The app should be totally bug free and should not crash.