Bravo is the first network to create a sponsored "TV Room" with zeebox

Second screen technology company zeebox launched a new “TV Room” feature today and announced that Bravo is the first network to sign on as an official sponsor of a show-themed experience.
In conjunction with the net’s June 24 episode, “The Real Housewives of Orange County: 100th Episode Special,” Bravo will launch the “Real Housewives” TV Room, where fans can connect with current and former Housewives, like Jo de la Rosa, Gretchen Rossi and Tamra Barney. Andy Cohen will make an appearance in the official Bravo Media TV Room. Watch out, people, it could get ugly. Gretchen is dating Slade. But Slade used to date Jo. And if anyone can stoke a fire, it’s Andy Cohen.
With second screen getting a lot of attention these days, you’ll likely see more networks hop on the bandwagon soon. Here’s what it’s about: zeebox’s TV Rooms, which launched in beta in iTunes on Monday, allows consumers to create their own TV room experiences, in addition to being able to search for TV shows, check schedules and connect with friends on social networks. The focus is really on personalization, said evp and managing director of zeebox Jason Forbes. “For many second screen experiences, when you fire up an app it tends to be pretty similar no matter who you are.” But with zeebox the “personalization is based on the shows that I’ve watched before, the affinity groups I’ve connected with via TV rooms, and based on where I’m located.”

By creating and theming discussions in the form of Rooms, each person’s experience is differentiated. For instance, if you like watching “The Voice” for the musical acts, you can name a TV Room based on that aspect of the show. Or, if you like the banter between the judges, that could be your game. “It allows fans to connect with other people who have similar passions to us, thus greatly personalizing the TV experience,” said Forbes.
There are a couple ways to get to a TV Room. Click on the tab and you’ll see the most popular TV Rooms on the application at that particular time. Or, you can build your own room, and choose whether it’s private—in which case you can invite friends from Facebook to join—or public. Currently, fans can only post comments, but in a couple of weeks you’ll be able to upload images, video, gifts and other rich media, according to Forbes. Additionally, some rooms cover multiple TV shows. There’s a “So Bad It’s Good” room for discussing guilty pleasure shows as well as a “6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon” room. “We anticipate with this official launch with Bravo, obviously lots of extra people are going to hear about TV rooms so we see this as getting magnified pretty quickly,” Forbes said.
So what’s to stop this from becoming a chat room discussion gone wild? Forbes said that discovery will be helped along by zeebox’s focus on popularity. If you’re watching a show, “you’ll see the most popular TV rooms that have that show as part of their collection,” he said, "with the number of members and the activity of the members in that room driving the most influential ones to the top of the pile.”  
The application is, first and foremost, for consumers. But while creating the TV Room concept, zeebox considered five different stakeholder groups. First it caters to users, who can create their own rooms. Then there are the network partners, like Bravo, which can bring in network talent and personalize the experience for their brand. There are also third parties like HuffPo or AOL, who might want to connect directly to a particular TV audience. Fourth is zeebox itself, which has built 60 different editorial rooms. Lastly, it has considered brands as a major stakeholder—the Budweisers and the AllStates. For instance, Bud can build a TV Room around Monday Night Football. The important part is that it’s all connected with TV, said Forbes. “So when you go into a TV room, you’ll actually see the schedule of shows that the room relates to. It gives the community in that room a great way to focus the dialogue.”
But will it drive tune-in? And how do you measure that? While the company does use third parties to measure engagement, it also has analytics tools built in. “We have every single user down to the zip code level,” he said. And a large percentage of consumers authenticate with social networks like Facebook, so it has age and gender information. The average user session lasts about 30 minutes, so zeebox can see where users come from and where they go. This, he hopes, will help networks understand tune-in habits. “If you want to target more users to spend time watching your show, then these are the other shows and networks where your users spend their time. We call that audience finder. It’s a great way to find incremental audiences to grow an existing TV show base.”
In the coming weeks and months the application’s capabilities will expand quite a bit, so consumers will need to consistently upgrade the app. “Literally every couple of weeks for the foreseeable future you’re going to see substantial changes to the platform,” said Forbes. The company will be announcing a number of third parties over the weeks and months, and he says they’ve talked to other major networks and are in discussions with most of the major operators. Zeebox already works as a remote control for 22 million Comcast households. [Note: Comcast/NBCU is an investor in zeebox.] “We’re in discussions with all the large players in the cable and satellite side looking to expand that footprint,” he said, and hopes that with this announcement they’ll see a lot more interest from MVPDs.

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