The state of play

  • 91% of adults watch TV at least once a week.
  • 53% of adults multitask with TV and another form of media.
  • 25% of these second screeners are regularly using this activity to communicate about TV shows.
  • 6m Zeebox downloads so far.

Two main considerations for the second screen


Storytelling will perhaps gradually get reinvented. It’s no longer as linear as it was. Ernesto estimates that in ten years time we won’t recognise television, as interacting with the show is more likely to occur via an app or browser, and not always during a programme’s air time.


Theoretically a second screen can do away with most of the funnel, from stimulus to purchase/brand engagement. No longer will advertisers have to leave their consumers in the ether between devices.

TV ads can be interacted with immediately via Zeebox.

Functionality of Zeebox

  • Discovery: helping to surface programming you may be interested in. Also works as a remote control. Many of the features are optimised by the fact that users log in to Zeebox with Facebook or Twitter, so the app starts with a decent profile of your friends and interests.
  • Social: chatting in app, sharing through Facebook and Twitter. Shows have their own ‘rooms’ where typically hundreds of people are discussing particular programming. Of course, this increases for bigger events.
  • Information: further detail on shows and show content.
  • Participation: the interactive parts of the app experience. Games, polls, quizzes etc. This enables a virtuous cycle with results from the app being shown on the TV screen.
  • Shopping: In-app purchases now available, used in-ad.

Interestingly, the platform uses aural stimuli to detect what programme you’re watching. This is how ads are launched in-app.

Why the ads are so powerful: user profiles and click-to-buy

Advertiser call-to-actions appear on the second screen. The aural stimuli from the TV ad will start the in-app ad. As social log-in is enabled in Zeebox, the advertisers have the option of serving different ads to different demographics, the most obvious being to split the ads between ages and sexes.

This teaming of app ads with TV increases recall, positive association and interest in a brand.

An analytics platform is built in for advertisers to see what level of click-to-buy or ‘click to find out more’ is observed.

But will enough users sign up?

The advantage of Zeebox (over Twitter) for users is based on extra content. The programming info and show suggestion is powerful, as is, of course, the interactivity.

But there remains the question, what if people only want to chatter? If I only want to talk about a show, I’m still more likely to do that in Twitter. Yes, there are fan rooms within Zeebox, but these are surely only for the fanatics, not Joe Bloggs.

Zeebox is cleverly trying to increase the reasons to share in Zeebox. Starwatch is a feature that shows you what various celebrities are watching. This is the kind of feature needed to make people want to use the app over something like Twitter, giving it another USP apart from the interactive content that not all users will want, except for the biggest, most interactive shows such as XFactor.

And what about streamers?

If more and more people start streaming and watching again through services like iPlayer and 4OD (I, like a lot of Londoners, have a laptop and a TV license, but no TV), then how will Zeebox capitalise on ads? The ads on the laptop will already be clickable and Zeebox likely won’t always have tie-ins.

It’s also difficult to second screen when you’re already dealing with a laptop that isn’t always as unobtrusive as a TV.

Future monetisation through betting?

One possible route for engagement and monetisation is betting. The platform has also been earmarked as a potential betting app, with the ability to place bets on anything from sports, to who is going to be eliminated from the Apprentice.

If Zeebox goes down this route, and there are some suggestions they may trial this first in Australia, it could be a powerful form or revenue generation.

The advantage for broadcasters

No more app graveyard

The app has a CMS so broadcasters can continue to develop ‘apps’ in Zeebox. One of the main advantages here is the reduced cost, standalone apps can cost $500,000 and aren’t used out of season.

Starting from scratch with each programme’s app and having the user download multiple apps for multiple shows is expensive for the broadcaster and a barrier for the user.

With Zeebox, the consumer downloads once and the broadcaster develops multiple apps much quicker.

Broadcasters in partnership

Sky has a 10% stake in Zeebox and is the only UK broadcasting partner. This is a great advantage obviously, as all Sky’s second screen apps are built with Zeebox involved in their technology.

There is cross-broadcaster support elsewhere with Comcast, NBC, Viacom and HBO in the US, and Network Ten and Foxtel in Australia. This makes integration with programming a lot more compelling. Without partnering, there is the suggestion that in some ways Zeebox is piggybacking on content.

It’s clear that once users are sucked into Zeebox the platform is great for advertisers.

The only question that remains is ‘can the creativity added to a TV show become great enough with Zeebox that it fully trumps Twitter?’