Zeal for Zeebox: the time is now for dual screening


What Zeebox and dual-screening means for broadcasters.

What else are you doing while you’re reading this? Research shows that people are increasingly dual screening - going online at the same time as watching TV - and at Red Bee we’ve been spending a lot of time thinking, talking and working on how broadcasters can make the most of this. While some people are doing activities that have nothing to do with what they’re watching – Christmas shopping, anyone? – lots are using their phones, laptops and tablets to enrich the experience of their favourite shows by following the banter on Twitter, or commenting live on Facebook.

Now a new platform has arrived that hopes to make this sort of viewing the norm, by bringing the “dual screen” experience into one place. Zeebox, which launched last month, pulls together the relevant Twitter feed, news information and more and links to your social network on Facebook.

I’ve spent the last couple of weekends trying it out while watching The X Factor (purely for research purposes, natch) and it seems to do two main jobs.

First and foremost, it makes TV more social: it enables the viewer to talk about the show, or simply listen in to the chat, by bringing in Twitter feeds and your Facebook friends into one place.

Secondly, it links TV to the wider world, allowing you to find out more information about what’s referenced on the show. Zeetags pick up on certain key words and seamlessly link through to Wikipedia and iTunes. For example, whilst watching The X Factor, I might be able to find out more about Dermot (research purposes again, absolutely) and choose to buy his biography through the link. Or I might really like the music that's playing and link through to buy it.

Zeebox is really useful and has the potential to be huge.

However, there are a couple of teething problems it needs to put right first. Relevant information needs to be genuinely relevant. During The X Factor they pulled in five stories about Little Mix, my current favourites. A couple were great: Mel C thinks they are the new Spice Girls; Harry from One Direction fancies the pretty one; but two stories were just bizarre and distracting, including an article about craft activities with little children.

Likewise, the Zeetags are currently a bit hit or miss. (When someone mutters a mild expletive, that doesn’t mean I’m interested in Jesus Christ’s Wikipedia page…)

But beyond these current limitations, you can see the potential and their value to advertisers as well as programme makers. Zeetags could become the next AdWords. Though currently they only appear on key words from the shows and not the breaks. Won't it be great when we can link through from the John Lewis Christmas ad to the store online, right there and then?

The value to broadcasters is also huge. While at the moment the experience is a bit functional, the more those Zeetags and links take us to genuinely entertaining and absorbing content which extends the TV experience, the better our engagement with the show in hand. This is something a few broadcasters and programme makers are starting to do, but Zeebox will help viewers find it and share it more easily.

Zeebox is making it easier for audiences to get additional information surrounding a show. Different shows will demand that this additional content should be entertaining or informative. The time is now for broadcasters and advertisers to start thinking about the second screen experience alongside the TV screen.

Where do you think the future of dual-screening lies? Will it change the way viewers watch TV?

Clare Phillips, Head of Strategic Planning