This is an old draft I never got around to publishing but here goes…
I spotted Zeebox a couple of weeks ago and having thought about its implications I was surprised that it was the only prominent app on the iOS store doing what it is doing.
I think most people would agree that social TV is the inevitable next step; it just hasn’t been implemented properly yet (e.g. the disastrous performance of Google TV). Zeebox provides real-time twitter and cast/crew etc information about TV shows. You pick the show that you are watching, and it will show you what people are tweeting about it, and will promote tweets from cast and crew.
So, they’ve now sold 10% to BSkyB, announced on both the Sky and Zeebox blogs. This is a pretty big deal as this is a public demonstration of the sort of technology that we will see in Sky’s satellite TV service (they’ve admitted as much in the announcement). You don’t usually get such an advanced preview of a company’s plans.
It is interesting that BSkyB didn’t just buy Zeebox outright. I’m not quite sure why they didn’t, but they may be looking to keep their options open and not commit to what is currently just a glorified Twitter app (sorry Zeebox don’t take it personally). Similarly, Zeebox may have felt that they are in their prime, getting loads of publicity, and are in a good position to continue raising their profile and in turn their asking price, so why sell up now?
Anyway, Sky have laid their cards on the table – “this is what we are planning”, so I’m sure we’ll see similar activities and investments from other TV services in the future.
Also, I’m going to stake my flag in the sand and say that Zeebox will be discontinued by the end of the year (at the very latest), being fully absorbed into Sky’s own Sky+ app. The only situation when this won’t happen is Sky decide to carve out different niche uses for their apps, by having one app for scheduling etc (the current app), and another for social TV watching, a bit like Facebook’s new separate Camera app.