Zeebox Builds Rooms to Personalize Second Screen

Second-screen TV company zeebox said it is customizing the second-screen experience by letting fans, networks and advertisers set up rooms where they can share experiences built around selected programming.

Zeebox began letting users set up rooms during a soft launch that began Monday, when the updated app became available at Apple's App Store. It has also seeded its new environment by creating some 4,000 rooms that users can visit and plans to post a list of the 50 most popular rooms.

Bravo is the first network to set up an "official" room on zeebox. The Real Housewives TV room will go live with the Real Housewives of Orange County: 100th Episode Special on June 24. Visitors to the room will be able to interact with housewives Jo de la Rosa, Gretchen Rossi and Tamra Barney, as well as Bravo host/executive Andy Cohen. Rooms set up by networks are labeled "official" to differentiate them from fan generated ones.

Bravo is part of NBCUniversal, one of zeebox's financial backers. Another zeebox backer is Viacom. Zeebox is one of the key players in the burgeoning world of second screen activity. Networks and studios are working to generate additional material and experiences to keep fans involved.

Setting up the rooms is free. Zeebox makes money by selling advertising synched to run either during commercial breaks or designed to run while the programming airs. The company is counting on its rooms to build viewer engagement, according to Jason Forbes, executive VP of zeebox. The company split ad revenues with the companies it works with.
Forbes says that zeebox aims to fill five viewer needs using the second screen, and that "each becomes increasingly valuable through personalization." Those needs include program discovery, social activity, additional information about programming, interactivity and commerce. Zeebox will be able to recommend shows based on zip codes, preferences and other shows a viewer watches.

"There will be rooms for specific shows and networks, as well as for genres. Some viewers will prefer a room that deals with a reality show's hosts, while others are more interested in discussing the contestants' performances," Forbes said.

Zeebox is also encouraging "editorial" rooms set up by third parties with viewpoints on TV programming, such as publications.

Brands can set up rooms for programming they're involved with. For example, a football sponsor like Budweiser could have a player available to chat with fans in its room as a game is broadcast.

"As the first network to partner with zeebox for a dedicated TV room, we're excited to celebrate the Real Housewives of Orange County's 100th episode in a larger way that extends beyond the TV screen," Lisa Hsia, executive VP of digital for Bravo Media, said in a statement. "By creating a dialogue between fans and housewives within zeebox during the special, we're providing our dedicated fans with an added layer of engagement for commemorating this milestone with Bravo and each other -- while upholding Bravo's commitment to pioneering cross-platform experiences for fans."

Zeebox said a version of its app for Android devices will be available in a few weeks. Zeebox has already been downloaded 5 million times worldwide.

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.