Social TV platform Zeebox is tipped to launch this week -a little later than anticipated, but it will have been worth the wait.
The second screen platform, which invites viewers to engage in online conversations while watching programmes, is TEN’s foray into a growing market.
While Seven launched FANGO at the start of the year, and Nine added Jump-In during the Olympics, both will be dwarfed by Zeebox in terms of what it offers viewers.
Simply put, it is light years ahead of the competition.
TV Tonight has been test-driving Zeebox ahead of its launch and it offers greater depth, greater versatility and greater interactivity than either of its rivals.
Whilst Seven and Nine own their respective platforms, a key difference here is that TEN doesn’t own Zeebox, but has licensed the British-owned platform for Australia (it launched in the US in September with Comcast Cable and NBC Universal). That means Zeebox’s owners are keen to see more broadcasters embrace it in Australia and there are already rumours Foxtel could get on board.
As a result, Zeebox offers a full TV guide with all networks on equal footing and if viewers are only going to migrate to one, instead of three, platforms then Zeebox deserves to be their first choice.
Significantly, it will launch free on iPad, iPhone, Android and Web -there are no vague promises of making Android users wait until 6 months down the track.
While FANGO prioritises Seven shows on its homepage (and lacks a full Guide), Jump-In has a full guide as its homepage but makes navigation rather confusing. Zeebox uses plenty of photos and has the feel of a giant TV website, with a full Guide, News, chat, “shout-outs” to invite friends to join you in watching content together, viewing reminders and more.
One of its most powerful features is “Zeetags” which trawls closed captions for the programmes you are watching and makes tags of keywords, which then link to further information. Want to know what that song was on The X Factor? Need an actor bio? Want more info on a topic discussed on Q & A? There are “Zeetag” links that offer loads of online links. Sometimes these aren’t perfect. For instance Big Brother zeetags led to US stories about big brother adoptions -not exactly related to the show. Shows that don’t offer closed captions could also be a challenge.
Chat takes place privately with feiends within the app’s direct conversation, or via public Twitter and Facebook aggregation, and you can quickly see which shows have the biggest activity at any given moment. If your friends are logged in you can see what shows they are watching.
Zeebox will be including advertising, but so far it seems to be largely unobtrusive and it looks like being content relevant (such as iTunes episodes of the show you’re watching). Not sure how long that will last.
There are also other “smart” features that engage devices with the TV set that are likely to come later.
I still haven’t worked out how TEN benefits from this platform over and above other broadcasters, because at first glance all networks seem to benefit from the same features. Maybe this will become evident later.
My anecdotal research also suggests that a lot of us have dabbled with some of these platforms, FANGO in particular, but not everyone is sticking with them, feeling they are either limited in what they offer or too hard to navigate. In my experience you only get one shot to impress and then it’s hard to draw the user back or get them to drill down. Zeebox makes a strong first impression and you will probably need to come back just to wade through all its features and decide which ones work best for you.
If you are into second-screen Zeebox will be a must have, or if it’s your first interest in finding out what all the fuss is about then there are lots of bells and whistles.
Either way if you are into TV, it will be definitely be worth a look.
Despite other current challenges, TEN got this one right.