Zeebox is a social networking and social television platform available for mobile devices, including iPad, iPhone, Android, BlackBerry OS, BlackBerry 10 and web. Zeebox provides contextual information second-by-second as people watch TV. This information includes which friends are watching the same shows right now and what is seen and heard within the broadcast.
The company was founded by Anthony Rose, the ex-CTO of the BBC iPlayer, and Ernesto Schmitt, ex-Board Director of EMI Music. Film Director Simon Miller, Max Bleyleben, and Alex Nunes are also in the founding team.
The service was launched in October 2011 by Zeebox Limited, a British company, originally called tBone.
In January 2012, BSkyB bought a stake in Zeebox and announced plans to integrate the software with its offering. In September 2012, Zeebox announced expansion into the US with a commercial partnership with Comcast Cable, NBCU, Viacom and HBO. Comcast, NBCU and Viacom have also taken minority equity stakes for undisclosed sums. In November 2012, Zeebox launched a joint venture in Australia with Network Ten and Foxtel.
How it works
At its most basic, an iPad user can “check-in” to shows manually. To automate that process, the app can listen for shows’ audio fingerprints, Shazam-style. Connected TV owners get the full automatic experience because those TVs already know what shows are on.
Zeebox is like Spotify for TV watching. You can see what’s on now, what your friends are watching, what celebrities are watching, or rank shows by what the soon-to-be hordes on Zeebox are watching. It’s up to you if you want to alert the world about what you’re watching, and you can tell them you’ve ‘booked’ an appointment with Homeland. Click on any show and you pull up related clips, photos, tweets, web links, news, bios, etc. Later in the year, Zeebox will add remote control capability, something it has had in the U.K. with its partner, BSkyB, since its launch in November 2011. Comcast put an undisclosed equity stake into Zeebox.
Zeebox was funded with $6 million initially. BSkyB invested an undisclosed amount for a 10% stake, with Australia’s Network Ten coming for a smaller amount. It earned 1 million downloads in the U.K. in its first year. It should do ten times that many in the U.S. Its design and user interface is simple and fast, designed by CTO Anthony Rose, who helped build the BBC’s widely acclaimed iPlayer. Zeebox competes in a somewhat crowded field of second-screen apps. Audio-recognition app Shazam has 250 million users, of which 135 million say they use the app to pull up enhanced TV pages once a week. Yahoo’s IntoNow app is similarly focused on delivering relevant content using a phone or tablet’s microphone for audio recognition. Zeebox takes a different approach. Its computer servers crawl everything that’s on television, including the closed-caption feed and the ads themselves, so as long as you have a Web connection your Zeebox show page pulls in a stream of related entity tags on the right-hand side of the screen that changes as the show proceeds. These tags link to Wikipedia pages, songs, videos, sites, polls or, for a fee, merchants and sponsors. It’s like Google AdSense for TV. There will also be display advertising targeted to real-time viewing habits.
Zeebox wants you to watch live TV, just as its partners, the broadcasters and cablers, do. Its revenue will come from selling them and their advertisers sponsored tags, display ads, sales of merchandise through the app and selling aggregated audience data back to broadcasters and studios. TV is getting social and viewers are getting obsessed with sharing their television experience.