Zeebox Becomes Beamly to Focus on Social TV

Saying that the second-screen business hasn’t taken off, Zeebox plans to refocus on social TV and rename itself as Beamly.

The new Beamly app launches Monday for the iPhone, iPad, Android and the web and allows TV fans to get personalized news and social feeds about their favorite shows, find and follow other fans, chat and share in TV rooms, and interact live with content synched live to the programming.

Partly owned by Comcast’s NBCU and Viacom, Beamly is forming new ad revenue sharing arrangements with additional programmers including Discovery Communications.

Jason Forbes, executive VP and managing director of Beamly said that 65% of the time people spent on Zeebox came before and after their favorite TV as opposed to during the show. “The vast majority of second screen experiences have failed to resonate," Forbes said.

Forbes said the Zeebox audience changed in the past 12 months, becoming younger and more female, leading the company to take a deeper look at what works and what doesn’t work.

The new app is cleaner and puts more emphasis on following TV shows and greater personalization to encourage people to come to the site more often. The changes have boosted the number of user visits and the length of those visits, Forbes says.

Beamly still offers second-screen experiences and says the Holy Grail for second screen experiences is live voting that affects the outcome of the show being watched. Also popular are games that encourage conversation about shows. On the other hand, trivia and game elements not in the tone of the program have proved to be distracting and irritating to the audience, particularly in scripted shows that require the audience’s concentration, like Mad Men or Game of Thrones. Fans are eager to talk about those shows before and after they air, Forbes added.

In its new configuration, Beamly features can be embedded on the web sites and apps of its programming partners, which has added millions of unique users, providing additional scale for potential advertisers, who can sponsor features inside TV rooms, such as leader boards.

Beamly does not have its own ad sales staff. Its partners sell the audiences generated by Beamly features and Beamly takes a split of the revenues.

Beamly’s relationship Viacom and NBCU has given it a leg up in developing experiences for the networks they own and encouraged ad sales relationships, Forbes said. Beamly will also be announcing new partners. Already live are experiences tied to Discovery shows including Fast and LoudGold Rush and Naked and Afraid.

To mark its launch, Beamly has formed relationships with 100 TV and pop culture influencers who are hosting their own live, vibrant TV Rooms and profiles in the app. They include YouTube sensations like Tyler Oakley and Kalel Cullen, who will bring followers from YouTube and other social networks to Beamly and provide stimulating and engaging commentary to attract additional users.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.