CES: Zeebox to Add Content Recognition to Second-Screen Apps

Zeebox, the U.K.-based startup whose backers include Comcast, NBCUniversal and Viacom, plans to integrate Gracenote’s Entourage automatic content recognition system into its TV companion apps to “listen” to audio and identify programming on the big screen.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The companies plan to demo Zeebox featuring Gracenote Entourage next week at the International CES in Las Vegas.

Zeebox said it will use the Gracenote ACR technology to identify the program the user is watching, either live or time-shifted, to automatically provide additional information, votes and polls, tweets, presence and T-commerce opportunities synchronized with the program being viewed.

Zeebox launched its apps for iOS and Android devices in the U.S. last fall with partners including NBCU and HBO. The apps provide enhanced and related content culled from the Web and provided by TV programmers, social networks and advertisers as well as e-commerce features.

The current versions do not provide automatic content recognition, whereas other second-screen app developers such as Shazam Entertainment do.

Gracenote’s ACR system uses audio fingerprinting to let apps on smartphones and tablets identify TV programs and movies by analyzing a few seconds of the dialogue or soundtrack.

"Gracenote technology will allow us to take Zeebox to the next level, providing that great interactive and synchronized zeebox experience for both live and recently PVR'd content," Zeebox co-founder and CTO Anthony Rose said in a statement.

Zeebox's recent updates added remote control capability for Comcast set-top boxes in the U.S., plus synchronized two-way remote control for Sky and Virgin Media's TiVo set-tops in the U.K. The company says support for additional cable and satellite TV providers is coming soon.

Emeryville, Calif.-based Gracenote is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Sony Corporation of America. The company provides music and video metadata and recognition technologies to music publishers and labels, movie studios and TV networks.