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Cable Technology Feature Article

September 28, 2012

Zeebox Partners with Comcast, NBCU & HBO to Make US Debut

By Shankar Pandiath, TMCnet Contributor

Social TV service Zeebox has recently made its debut in the U.S., striking partnerships with Comcast (News - Alert) Communications, NBCUniversal (NBCU), HBO and Cinemax across more than 30 television networks. It is a first-of-its-kind endorsement of a universal, cross-channel TV viewing companion app for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Android (News - Alert) and the Web. This marks an important beginning, with further partners expected to be invited in due course.

Zeebox was the creation of former BBC iPlayer CTO Anthony Rose and former EMI executive Ernesto Schmitt. Since then it has led a global innovation in the market of TV companion apps since launching in the UK in 2011. Later, Zeebox formed a joint venture in Australia with broadcaster Network Ten for its launch Down Under.

Zeebox uniquely enables consumers to discover what to watch by browsing comprehensive TV listings, social media and personalized recommendations. It analyzes the context of live television and uses that to aggregate stuff from the Web that is relevant to what consumers are watching on TV. It enables consumers to buy what they see on screen, share their TV viewing habits with friends and engage with more information about their favorite shows.

Comcast Cable and NBCU are already on board, bringing their customers and tens of millions of viewers across hundreds of channels. As launch partners, Comcast Cable and NBCU are backing Zeebox with investments and promotional support. Comcast and NBCU have invested an undisclosed amount in the stateside version of the app. They will promote the service and also use it to “enhance” hundreds of their top TV shows, including The Voice.

HBO and its sister network Cinemax said they will use the social platform to increase engagement with shows like Boardwalk Empire, True Blood and Strike Back. Zeebox is expecting to add more partners in “due course.”

"We are proud to launch with this game-changing roster of partners who recognize the importance of fully meeting web-empowered consumer expectations," said Ernesto Schmitt, chief executive officer and co-founder of Zeebox. He added that Zeebox gives content owners and programmers a direct line of communication, feedback and engagement that has never before been possible.

Anthony Rose, the chief technical officer and co-founder told Lost Remote hours before the launch that 307 shows, will be enhanced in Zeebox, across 30 networks. The chief executive officer and co-founder Ernesto Schmitt added that they’re already in touch with folks in Hollywood about “writing shows to be consumed across multiple screens.”

Steve Burke, the chief executive officer of NBCUniversal said they were excited to team with Zeebox on their US launch and exclaimed that Zeebox provided opportunities for both viewers and advertisers. He added that as the Olympics demonstrated, the second screen experience has become an increasingly important platform to engage audiences.

HBO co-president Eric Kessler added the service was a “unique, comprehensive platform” that would help drive “discovery, engagement and conversation” around its shows. He added that their audiences have demonstrated a clear commitment to connecting with HBO and Cinemax programming on a deeper level.

Neil Smit (News - Alert), the chief executive officer of Comcast Cable, commented that Zeebox is a really compelling second-screen companion viewing platform, and that they were excited to join such a strong group of industry partners in its launch. Smit went on to add that Zeebox will offer a unique nationwide TV companion experience that will make viewing live TV more engaging, compelling and fun.

Zeebox hired former Time Warner (News - Alert) Cable media executive Jason Forbes to head its U.S. expansion in March, and has set up a base in New York. It initially planned to launch in the U.S. in the second quarter of 2012.

The London Olympics did much to drive consumer awareness of second-screen experiences. Having one app that can provide content for hundreds of shows should spur adoption and reduce fragmentation.

Zeebox's proprietary consumer research confirms that up to 70 percent of U.S. television viewers are interested in the unique feature set that Zeebox provides. In the past year, the market for second-screen TV apps has been evolving rapidly but remains highly fragmented. Consumers today are using different apps and web services for discovery, social engagement and interactivity. Zeebox brings all these features together in a single app that drives increased viewership of programming by making the live TV experience even more compelling.

The service, which is available online and on iOS and Android devices, includes a seven-day TV guide and integration with Facebook and Twitter (News - Alert). It also offers additional information about shows and e-commerce links to tie in with what appears on screen.

The Zeebox iOS app is currently available as a free download, and the browser version is available through Zeebox.com

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Edited by Rachel Ramsey

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