Zeebox and first mover advantage

3 weeks ago I bought myself a sexy new Samsung smart TV, then just over a week ago came the perfect accompaniment in the form of Zeebox for the iPad.  Sure it may not be the most incredibly groundbreaking idea to create a TV listings app that delivers and allows you to share contextual information about what you’re watching – but then it’s simple things which often catch on.  Most of us have done the conference circuit and heard talk after talk about all the amazing possiblities of the second screen syncing to TV (from interactive ads to transmedia TV formats, shopping to new forms of content discovery), but now someone’s actually done something about it, and you’ve gotta at least respect that.

So here’s what I like:

1. Simple, intuitive and clean UI: It’s a really sleek design on iPad.  I love the forwards/backwards EPG (albeit limited to now, next and the previous show).  Clearly Anthony Rose has taken one of the better ideas from youview and run with it, although it would obviously be very exciting if/when it integrates with catch-up services.  I also like the simple ways of organising content by channel, popularity, friends and genres… if I had more than one friend on Zeebox I’m sure the ‘friends’ view would be quite compelling, which takes me on to…

2. Social features: It’s nice I can see what my friends are watching (although maybe my friends don’t appreciate me knowing they’re watching ‘Boob Envy’ on PickTV).  I like the prospect of inviting friends to view with me (again, when I have more friends on the app).  It’s a great bit of foresight to automatically add the show hashtag when I go to tweet.  And the fact my login to the app is via Facebook Connect makes life easy too.

3. Zeetags: Sure some of these aren’t quite right – but they’re pretty spot on!  While everyone else seems to be talking up investing shed loads of money into audio stream technologies Anthony Rose has taken the simpler and cheaper approach of generating tags from subtitles.  Ok – so it’s not that exciting that zeetags only lead to wikipedia and news – but there is HUGE commercial and creative potential here for both broadcasters, content owners and third parties – zeetags could be like a google adwords (or promoted tweets) for TV.

4. Controls your TV: I love the fact it can switch between channels on my TV – that makes it worth it alone.  Of course it’s pretty limited right now and doesn’t really address the issue that I tend to flick between Freeview HD and Sky – but again there’s a lot of potential as Zeebox is cutting out the remote and the traditional EPG – again a clever move with big implications (how long until a service like YouTube or Netflix buys a placement in the Zeebox EPG?).

5. Fast: It goes without saying but to keep my attention the app needs to download images/metadata quickly and be traction free – and it is pretty good in this regard.

There’s a few other bits in Zeebox that I’ve not tried or don’t really pay attention to (shopping, audience popularity, twitter feed (but that’s because I have my tweets open in tweetdeck on my third screen)), but then I’m sure others do use them.

The big thing for me is this has the potential to be disruptive.  So no one’s heard of ‘Zeebox’ as a brand yet, but how far behind are the broadcasters with their own version of this kind of thing?  If youview try to do something then are we to wait another year?  In that time zeebox (which will be on iPhone and android too I’d guess) may be a destination in its own right.  I was running a brainstorm called ‘Death of the Remote Control’ at Mindshare last Thursday and I was taken aback when I showed them Zeebox and they got very excited at how they could promote brands through zeetags… there are serious dollars which might leak to this kind of third party app.

So what are broadcasters to do?  They can get on board and make Zeebox an even more compelling proposition by giving it access to advertising timelines, additional content, interactive features, on-demand, and maybe in return share that potential revenue and get some valuable data?  Or they can try to kill it – create technical standards that make integration complex, deny it access to on-demand content, or try to create something better (and stay better).

It’s an exciting (and shrewd) move on the part of Anthony Rose.  To deliver something like this in under 9 months is pretty impressive, and the broadcasters are going to struggle to move at that pace themselves. I look forward to seeing what Zeebox, broadcasters and advertisers do next.

Zeebox Video Tutorial

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