Zeebox Serves as Tonto to Second-Screen Lone Rangers
Zeebox pitches itself as a "TV sidekick" that helps you discover new shows and learn more about shows you're already familiar with. I found the experience similar to that obtained in a Twitter session with a Twitter hashtag, where you follow based on hashtag as the show plays out. One difference with Zeebox is that it has a built-in schedule -- you can see upcoming shows without leaving the app.
08/02/13 5:00 AM PT
Zeebox is free in the Google Play store.
If you read my columns regularly, you'll know that I'm a second-screen proponent.
For those unfamiliar with the dual-screen concept, it suggests that tablet or phone often accompanies big-screen television watching, resting on the viewer's knee and acting as a two-way, interactive, Internet-connected screen.
Where the concept breaks down, however, is that no one really knows how second screens are used. It's all a big guess.
Twitter and other social networks will have you believe that second-screeners are tweeting about television shows; Amazon reckons you're buying things; and I, for one, find myself browsing websites totally unrelated to the television program I'm watching. So, who knows?
Zeebox thinks it's come up with a compelling app geared predominantly towards second-screeners -- an app designed to be open on device while you watch television; one that specifically pulls together the television-viewing experience with social networking.
Zeebox pitches itself as a "TV sidekick" social television guide that helps you discover new shows and learn more about shows you're already familiar with; and it does all of this live.
First up in the mix are TV Rooms. TV Rooms make total theoretical sense. Think of them as forum-like discussions and commentary centered around one show, subject or genre. You choose your room, or create one, and enter into a dialog with your fellow fans.
I found the room-browsing experience similar to that obtained in a Twitter session with a Twitter hashtag, where you follow based on hashtag as the show plays out. One difference with Zeebox is that it has a built-in schedule -- you can see upcoming shows without leaving the app.
Annoyingly, Zeebox forces you to use either a Facebook or Twitter login, or both, to join rooms. I reluctantly used my Twitter account. A native login is an irritating omission. Zeebox does ask you, however, when it wants to retransmit what you've said, and says it does the same for Facebook.
Other features include a record-audio function, which can identify what's on your television; a channel-changing remote for Xfinity cable subscribers; and trending shows in a TV Picks tab.
The TV Picks tab within the app provides show suggestions. Included here are most popular, Zeebox recommended, biggest buzz, what the stars are tweeting about and so on. I found it a good place to see what America was watching.
There is a "Recommended For You" panel that, bizarrely, recommended that I watch The Roy Rogers Show, the Lone Ranger and a cartoon called Arthur -- go figure.
Still, I was unable to find any kind of genre search though which I could enter an obscure show subject and get suggestions for high-brow like-shows as well as a bunch of instant, equally obscure friends to chat with. It was all very Lowest Common Denominator -- not that there's anything wrong with that.
The whole second-screen shebang is wide open and Zeebox has jumped straight in. I have to hand it to Zeebox, it's working the second-screen concept.
Overall, Zeebox is spot-on in terms of its idea. It covers all the second-screen bases: social networking, TV news, reviews, schedules, chat and so on.
I may not be its target audience, although I am a second-screen adopter; unfortunately, there's a limit to what I can come up with to say in a forum about Keeping Up With the Kardashians or Long Island Princesses -- two featured home-screen pick shows.
Only time will tell if Zeebox-like social networking related to television viewing is what second-screeners want to do. Meanwhile, if you'll excuse me, the Lone Ranger has just started? Also I must just check this weekend's weather forecast on my tablet.
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