BSkyB has announced a strategic partnership with UK company Zeebox, which will allow TV viewers to do everything from recording their favourite show and chatting to their friends in real time, to purchasing products seen on screen.
Sky has purchased a 10% – ‘multi-million pound’ – stake in the company, and will integrate Zeebox into its apps, software and hardware, as well as an advertising tie-up.
Zeebox currently operates similar to social media websites in that it runs feeds, comments and status updates on particular shows alongside a live TV guide which shows what friends are watching.
Currently available through the iPhone/iPad app and through web browsers (including inside Facebook), it launched in October 2011 and saw some early success. The company is led by Ernesto Schmitt, a former EMI board director, and Anthony Rose, who developed and launched the BBC iPlayer.
Its tie up with Sky will see ‘augmented TV’ rolled out across 2012 on these second screens, allowing users to socialise during ad breaks, making connections based around their viewing habits, access to information on the shows they watch, and provide easy access for the purchasing of products on these shows, by linking to online stores.
Viewers will, for example, are now able to chat about who they think the killer is on CSI, look up the Hollywood actor cameoing in the episode and buy the Citizen watch he is wearing.
"Sky has a strong track record of innovation, and we are delighted to partner with them to deliver Zeebox’s social TV vision to millions of Sky homes. Thanks to Sky’s backing we now also have the resources and expertise to set our sights firmly on international expansion alongside further innovation here in the UK and Ireland," said Schmitt.
Sky also says that later in the year customers will also be able to use a Zeebox powered Sky app to access their Sky+ box on the move, so they can manage their recording remotely, as well as using their iPhone or iPad as a remote control for their Sky box.
As part of the deal Sky will integrate Zeebox software into its existing apps, software and hardware, while Sky Media also becomes the exclusive advertising sales agent locally. BSkyB’s 10% stake and cash injection will help Zeebox expand, Zeebox will remain an independent company operating its own Zeebox branded social TV platform in the UK, outside of the Sky partnership, as well as overseas.
"The Sky association brings both development resources and a ready-made target audience that has been primed for dual-screen activity by way of the well-established Sky+ app, along with the merging of Sky Player and Sky Mobile TV into Sky Go during the second half of 2011. While Sky hasn’t been a laggard in bringing second screen experiences to its audience, these have been based on static, standalone apps that run in silos, independently of the main TV session. The Zeebox association brings the operator to the cutting edge of split-screen TV apps with a concept that spans the key areas social media integration and intelligent advertising, bringing the crucial element of contextual relevance to both," said Jonathan Doran, Principal Analyst at Ovum.
Sky has had some success with its mobile apps, such as Sky Go and Sky News. According to comScore data for October 2011, three of Sky’s apps appeared in the top 20 UK apps by cellular data usage in the UK. Collectively, Sky’s apps have been downloaded more than 20 million times.
"Sky took an early position of leadership with companion devices, having recognised the demand from our customers to use second screens to discover, enjoy and interact with their favourite content. The integration of Zeebox’s innovative technology will enable us to make the companion device experience even richer and more engaging. We know that millions of our customers have smartphones and tablets and regularly use them to engage with Sky on mobile devices, so it’s a natural next step for us," Emma Lloyd, Sky’s Director of Emerging Products said.
As CBR noted in its round up last year, the second screen era is upon us driven by the ubiquity of high end mobile technology. Research is shows that users are often using more than one device in front of the TV at home. So expect rival pay-TV operators to offer similar services shortly.
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