U.K.-based social TV juggernaut zeebox is make its much-ballyhooed U.S. debut today, with help from Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA), NBCUniversal, HBO and Cinemax. The universal, cross-channel TV viewing companion application is now available for use by U.S. customers via Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch, Android, and the Web.
In addition to making zeebox available to their customers, Comcast and NBCUniversal also are backing zeebox with investments and promotional support.
Developed by former EMI executive Ernesto Schmitt and former BBC iPlayer CTO Anthony Rose, zeebox is a cloud-based social discovery platform that recognizes the context of what its users are watching and enhances the viewing experience with relevant content, ability to purchase products they see on TV and other experiences from across the Web, TV programmers, social networks and advertisers. The company's OpenBox API allows content owners and creators to quickly enhance their own content with greater depth of experiences for viewers.
HBO said it is bringing popular programming such as Boardwalk Empire and True Blood to zeebox, while sister network Cinemax also is including some of its own original programming. The social TV start-up has done its own consumer research, which it said shows that up to 70 percent of U.S. television viewers are interested in the social TV features promised by zeebox.
TV service providers and content owners are becoming more interested in enabling social TV experience, though the models for doing so remain immature and highly fragmented. In addition to being available on a variety and devices and via the Web, zeebox seeks to address some of that fragmentation by integrating with social networks like Facebook (Nasdaq: FB) and Twitter.
This week's replacement ref fiasco on Monday Night Football was a reminder that TV viewers are ready and willing to immediately flock to social media to discuss something they just viewed on TV. In a sense, zeebox, is one of the tools that can help the TV service and content communities harness and leverage those inclinations.
- here's the zeebox release
zeebox announced U.S. launch plans back in June
Comcast and zeebox execs both spoke at TV of Tomorrow