Second-screen social TV app Zeebox is coming to the U.S. later this summer, after a successful run in the U.K. The app is the brainchild of Anthony Rose, former CTO of the BBC iPlayer and a big driving force behind the development of public broadcaster’s streaming service. As such, he knows a thing or two about changing viewer habits, and Zeebox is uniquely positioned to take off where other similar apps have failed to get traction.
I got the chance to talk with Rose for TechCrunch TV and to get a demo of the app. First of all, how is the viewing experience changing and why do we need apps to take advantage of that shift in behavior? According to Rose, broadcasters are looking to take advantage of second screen capabilities and make live TV more social.
“Consumers don’t watch TV alone anymore… 80 percent of users are watching with a smartphone or tablet,” Rose told me. “The industry is taking advantage of this to create a set of applications that sync with TV.”
That’s led to an influx of networks, shows, and various startups racing to create apps that take advantage of those capabilities. I’ve seen a lot of social TV offerings, but few are put together as well as Zeebox, which combines multiple social elements in a single, elegant app.
There’s the discovery aspect, which lets you browse program listings based on popularity, as well as the number of your friends who are connected. There’s the information aspect, which gives viewers more background on the shows that they’re watching while they’re watching them. And then there’s the social aspect, which allows viewers to see what people are tweeting about a given show, as well as giving them the ability to share their own comments with friends and followers.
Zeebox has a partnership with Sky, the largest pay TV provider in the U.K., and the satellite company has taken a 10 percent stake in the startup. That’s helped it get traction in its home country.
But pretty soon it will also be launching in the U.S. Rose told me that Zeebox expects to come across the pond by the end of summer. When it does, it will recognize more than 150 channels based on audio fingerprinting, and be able to tell exactly what you’re watching.