Second-screen content points the way as Zeebox app reaches Australia

Nov 14, 2012 at 07:21 pm by Staff

As interactive TV app Zeebox launches in Australia, a new collaboration by ShowCaster in the UK deonstrates an opportuity for news publishers.

Fans watching talent show The X Factor in England last month had the opportunity of a snappy second-screen commentary from comedian Jake Yapp.

The companion experience delivered by interactive TV platform ShowCaster uses the best of both systems’ technology. Fans can interact with Yapp in real-time, take part in competitions and answer polls created live in reaction to what’s happening on the first screen – as well as making use of the suite of interactive features Zeebox offers around free-to-air and pay-TV shows.

What may be an opportunity for online publishers to ‘get in on the act’, ShowCaster is only part of the story. Zeebox – which launched in Australia this week, following the UK and USA – is clever enough in its own right.

Developed by entrepreneur and former EMI president Ernesto Schmitt and Anthony Rose, the TV technologist who designed the BBC’s iView service, Zeebox uses a cocktail of leading-edge mobile technologies to interact with broadcast TV.

Think Shazam meets Blippar or Aurasma in an internet (and social media-linked) experience likened to viewers ‘sharing a virtual couch’ with friends. The iOS and Android app uses audio and video cues to recognise what is being watched, and then pairs it with internet metadata and closed captioning text, offering viewers relevant advertisements and content.

Content and technology providers including Comcast Cable, NBCUniversal and Viacom have backed Zeebox with investments and promotional commitments.

Keyword-driven tags appear as the programme progresses, offering additional information… backgrounding a star, location or other content. “With a show like X Factor or The Voice for example, if there's a song that's being played, the app knows the song and a Zeetag will appear that allows you to click on it and find out more about that song, or let you buy that song with a few clicks," says Australian chief executive Craig Blair. “Another example would be that the app would recognise the products being mentioned in a show, maybe a device like a camera for example, and you can click on the Zeetag and buy that camera.”

While Channel 10 panel discussion Can of Worms will kick off the Australian service next Monday as the first to fully integrate with Zeebox, there is no exclusivity in the arrangement with the station. The company says its service will work with all Australian free-to-air TV stations except for ABC3, SBS2 and TVSN, with the pay-TV rollout depending on audience take up.

Viewers who log in through their Facebook will be able to see what their friends are watching in a ‘virtual couch’ social media experience. Zeebox will also identify if you are using an internet-connected ‘smart TV’ and enable you to use the app as a control.

In other markets, viewers can click on a show and have their Sky+ or Virgin Tivo box jump to that channel.

In the UK, Zeebox found 59 per cent of the population were regularly using the web whilst watching TV.

It also says 48 per cent of 13-25 year-olds want to be able to buy products they see straight from TV… and is working to accommodate them.

Peter Coleman

• Schmitt and Rose talk about their Zeebox technology


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