As Social TV apps go, Zeebox is probably the stand-out app that has gained the most traction to bring people a well organised ‘Second Screen’ experience. It also goes way beyond simply Tweeting your disgust at the latest X Factor scandal.
However, the company isn’t resting on its laurels given the number of rival services being launched. There’s still a long way to go, and many more users to attract beyond the 1.4 million that have already signed up.
For anyone who hasn’t yet tried it, Zeebox is designed to act as your TV sidekick. As a free app for iPad, iPhone, Android devices and laptops (or indeed desktops), it is designed to accompany your TV watching experience.
It does this in a number of ways. It can not only help you find cool things to watch in the first place, but also share and connect with your friends.
Despite the now obligatory social aspect of any application, Zeebox revealed at the recent Apps World exhibition in London that half of its users don’t actually want to be social, or will only do so when watching certain shows.
Perhaps ranting about the judges on Strictly or ridiculing a contestant for answering wrong on a gameshow is more fun than interrupting a good movie or documentary.
Zeebox also enables users to dive deeper into what they’re watching, finding out more about the cast and crew, as well as getting to enjoy extra content and other ways to participate with the programmes – like participating in competitions during a programme broadcast and sharing comments with others.
If you can’t think of anything witty to say, Zeebox even creates its own messages and video clips that you can share at the click of a button.
And then there’s shopping, with cleverly embedded ways to make purchases instead of just firing you off to another web page or app.
Simon Miller, Chief of Content and Product Development, Zeebox explains that Zeebox will get its revenue from targeted digital advertising within the app, rather than charging to use the service.
The company has already trialled a number of innovative ways to monetise the service, including working with sponsors for programmes looked at via the app, even if they’re not sponsors of the actual TV show (as such, you will see ads and links even when watching BBC broadcasts).
BP ran a series of promotions during the Olympics, piggybacking on broadcasts related to the games, while Samsung did similar things to promote its Smart Cameras during Eurovision, with separate polls exclusive to the Zeebox community.
Another idea is to use context sensitive advertising, with Zeebox listening to words and phrases spoken in broadcasts that could trigger relevant advertising within the app, in much the same was as Google tailors ads around the article you’re reading on the web.
Setting the standard
The company is also working to get broadcasters working with Zeebox to provide extra content and information to supplement its broadcasts. Although there is scope to create a dedicated app for big shows like X Factor or Strictly Come Dancing, it’s less viable for smaller shows.
Not only that but as Miller points out, nobody will want to download and install hundreds of apps that all do essentially the same thing, but only for one programme.
For the all-important social connectivity, Zeebox doesn’t just use Twitter to let people share opinions. In fact, Miller sees Twitter as “Too random, too much, too fast” to be truly useful for engaging with others during a TV show. Therefore, users are encouraged to communicate within the app and with other Zeebox users, as well as other social networking services.
The power of celebrity Tweeters to pull in TV audiences is also starting to move over to Zeebox, with actors and actresses now able to ‘big up’ their productions within Zeebox, with the added advantage of allowing people to easily change to the channel and get involved. Stephen Fry is just one example of a growing list of influential people taking to Zeebox.
Zeebox currently allows you to remotely control many Smart TVs, from Sony, Samsung, LG and Panasonic. Users can also control their Virgin Media TiVo box from the app, and Sky customers can now do the same with the latest iPad version. iPhone and Android users will soon get the same ability to control Sky boxes.
Rather than Tweeting your followers what you’re watching, Zeebox considers it more useful to send notifications to your friends. They can then receive a more personalised notification, with the added benefit of being able to click to load the app and jump straight to the programme details.
Taking the plunge
The service is currently available in the UK and USA, with Australia coming soon.
More information: Zeebox