Today UK-based zeebox announced the launch of its iOS, Android and web-based TV-companion app in the U.S., as well as strategic investment from Comcast Cable and NBCUniversal, an exclusive content partnership with HBO, and content from over 30 other networks. Zeebox aims to enhance the television viewing experience by providing relevant online content with the ability to find out more about shows, view content on social networks, and shop all within its app.
Founded by Ernesto Schmitt, former executive of EMI, and Anthony Rose, who was the CTO for BBC’s iPlayer, the company is looking to bring the second screen experience to more viewers who have their smartphones or tablets on hand while watching TV. “By December last year, we had BSkyB, the leading pay-TV and satellite distributor in the UK, take a 10 percent equity, ever since then we’ve always had global ambitions. And the U.S. by far is the largest market globally both by a TV viewership perspective and from a monetization perspective as well,” Jason Forbes, zeebox’s EVP and GM in the U.S., said in an interview.
Viewers download the zeebox app on any one or all of their mobile devices for free, and they can then find a show, see which shows are trending, see more details about the cast, see content from social networks, talk to their friends on Facebook and Twitter, and buy products they see in shows. It also augments content viewers are watching with ‘zeetags,’ web content around any topic that update as a show is airing (for example popping up with more info about Lady Gaga if she performs on a show).
“What makes zeebox different is that it offers five pillars that really haven’t been able in one app before, those being discovery, social, information, interactivity, and commerce. What we found from our U.S. consumer research is that what consumers are really looking for, literally 70 percent of a 4,000 person survey, is that if you can combine those five pillars in one app they would use the app on an ongoing basis,” Forbes said.
Through zeebox’s OpenBox API content owners can enhance their shows through the app, and NBCUniversal already has 307 shows enhanced for the launch with many more on the way. “Zeebox is a wingman of TV, so when you’re watching a show, we allow show producers to go on and enhance that viewing experience using a second screen. Those experiences via a reusable set of widgets can include quotes coming from the show, video sharing from the backstage, image sharing, voting, polling, etc., these are all widgets built by the zeebox team to let anyone take advantage of the platform,” Forbes added.
The zeebox app is available for free to download to viewers, with the company’s business model revolving around providing content creators with second screen advertising and affiliate marketing opportunities, pairing on-screen advertisements with real-time digital ads on mobile devices. For example, while watching a car commercial, viewers would get a prompt to explore the car model and pricing details s on their mobile device. From a shopping perspective, they hope to leverage the same technology to provide recommendations for apps and products that are relevant to the viewer.
The rise of viewers using their smartphone, tablet or laptop while watching TV has led to multiple companies looking to capitalize on the opportunity, with each providing its own spin to take advantage of the change in viewing behavior. Discovery focused app GetGlue helps users find and chat about content with friends, and the company announced earlier last month that they had hit the three million user mark. Other companies like Wayin create an interactive and social experience via the creation of polls, surveys and questions. Zeebox is trying to be an all-in-one app that combines discovery, social features, and content partners,
With the launch in the U.S. and major TV network partnerships under their belt, zeebox will be looking to continue to grow its user base by bringing more and more popular programming on board. The company’s aim is to be to the go-to platform for viewers, and having seen success in the London with viewers, advertisers and show producers, the company seems ripe to do the same in the U.S. But with advertisers, networks, and app developers all trying to target viewers on their mobile devices, it’s not yet clear who will rise to the top of the second screen marketplace.