Zeebox launches in the US with Comcast, NBCU, HBO and Cinemax

By Natan Edelsburg Comment

The long wait is finally over. Zeebox has officially launched in the US. One of the most highly anticipated social TV announcements of the year is finally here and it’s as glamorous and colorful as we predicted. Less than a year since the platform has launched in the UK, Zeebox is now in the US for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Android and the Web. They’re launch partners include Comcast, NBCU, HBO and Cinemax. Here are the details of one of the biggest social TV launches in history.

Details of their TV launch partners:

Zeebox’s launch in the US is shaping up to be the social TV equivalent of the Beatles coming to the US for the first time. Their deals with Comcast, NBCU, HBO and Cinemax will instantly bring unique content from more than 30 networks to the platform.

For the Comcast/NBCU partnership: “Comcast Cable and NBCUniversal are backing zeebox with investments and promotional support, and are preparing to enhance hundreds of their top TV shows on zeebox, including the likes of The Voice and Notre Dame Football,” according to the announcement. Comcast subscribers will also have built in remote functionality into the Zeebox app.

Additionally, HBO, who’s major second screen offering has all been about HBO is launching with Zeebox. “HBO is the exclusive premiere network partner of zeebox, bringing highly acclaimed and award-winning programming such as Boardwalk Empire and True Blood to the social discovery platform as well as originals like Strike Back from sister network, Cinemax.” HBO Connect will also be promoting Zeebox.

“307 shows, will be enhanced in Zeebox, across 30 networks,” CTO and cofounder Anthony Rose told Lost Remote on the 51st Floor of 30 Rock in NYC hours before the launch. CEO and cofounder Ernesto Schmitt added that they’re already in touch with folks in Hollywood about “writing shows to be consumed across multiple screens.”

Why Comcast/NBCU decided to go with Zeebox:

We spoke with Page Thompson, Executive Vice President of Strategic Integration for NBCUniversal about the company’s bold move to place their bets on Zeebox. “NBC and Comcast have been interested in the second screen for long time,” he told Lost Remote. “We decided earlier this year to launch a project – we looked at all the second screen companies in the world and at the end of the study, Zeebox was the partner we’d most like to work with – the team they have, the success in the UK and the product they’ve developed,” were among the reasons Thompson described this big decision.

When we asked Thompson if Comcast’s investment would prevent other providers from jumping onto the Zeebox wagon he assured that wasn’t the case. “We want this to become the ultimate seconds screen – it’s not an NBCU app, it’s not a Comcast app, it’s a Zeebox app that’s accessible to anyone in any place, no matter who the programmer or who the distributor is.”

Thompson described the three big ways they are partnering with Zeebox:

1. “We’re already working on enhancing 307 show s today, 165 national shows, 142 local shows – we’re doing shows locally at our 10 owned stations,” he described. “On The Voice, we will be able to go behind the scenes, [for example] the most amazing blind auditions, all kinds of highlight clips of the shows, trivia and polling – much more interactive – USA, BRAVO and all of our networks [will be involved], we’re really committed,” he added.

2. They will be launching a “big marketing campaign in mid October – every single network will be running commercials, Comcast will be running on 30+ networks – all NBCU digital sites will promote Zeebox.”

3. Zeebox will be integrated into the TV shows themselves. Depending on the show you might be able to “play along with Zeebox,” by voting on what guest you might wan tto appear on a show, or what song a band should play on an upcoming show.

Thompson and the Zeebox team met for the first time at CES this past January.

The best parts of the Zeebox platform:

  • A comprehensive 7-day TV program guide across all major US TV channels, enabling the configuration of customized channel line ups and booking of future TV show reminders
  • Integration with Facebook and Twitter to enable social discovery of TV content, and engagement with friends and celebrities across live TV
  • In-depth information about shows, talent, topics and products mentioned on TV – synchronized second by second with the live show
  • Ecommerce links to relevant digital and physical products related to shows and the content of shows, with direct links to VOD content to come in the near future
  • Optimized for the new iPhone 5, four-inch Retina display and on iOS 6 including Smart App downloads within zeebox and Facebook single sign on

The design is fun and easy to figure out. While this app is brand new and an updated version of their UK version we asked the Zeebox team what they’ve learned so far from molding social TV in the UK. “Once you have ten or more friends on Zeebox, you come 27 times per month, a lead indicator of a social network establishing itself,” Schmitt told Lost Remote. Jason Forbes, EVP & GM in the USA for Zeebox added that the second screen “needs to be more than social,” and described how important it is to them to have Ecommerce and more baked into the app.

The most unique launch in social TV history:

Zeebox hasn’t just secured amazing partners, they aren’t just allowing you to lose your remote (if you have Comcast), they’re actually heavily investing in traditional TV marketing to spread their platform. It’s not just a “if you build it, they will come” startup dream, it’s a “we’ve built it, invested a lot of time in launch partners and will now tell you why you should come to it” via advertisements that will run across their partners traditional and digital platforms through the end of the year.

“We’re working with Mother New York,” Schmitt told Lost Remote. “The ads will be shot in Texas Thursday, Friday and Saturday,” he added. When we asked him if any celebrities will be involved in the spots he responded jokingly, “hey, we’re still a startup.” The Beatles of social TV are here, will they be a hit?