In the latest development in the throw-it-at-the-wall-to-see-what-sticks social TV arena, NBCUniversal’s Bravo plans to use a new chat feature of Zeebox’s second-screen app to promote live fan interaction with stars of “The Real Housewives of Orange County” later this month.
Zeebox’s “TV Rooms” provide topic-themed chat-rooms for viewers to follow and participate in real-time discussions about TV programs.
Bravo’s sponsored Zeebox TV Room for “Real Housewives of Orange County” will go live in tandem with premiere of reality skein’s 100th episode special on Monday, June 24, at 8 p.m. ET/PT. Leading the live discussion will be current and former cast members including Jo de la Rosa, Gretchen Rossi and Tamra Barney, along with Bravo’s Andy Cohen.
“By creating a dialogue between fans and Housewives within Zeebox during the special, we’re providing our dedicated fans with an added layer of engagement for commemorating this milestone with Bravo and each other — while upholding Bravo’s commitment to pioneering cross-platform experiences for fans,” said Bravo Media exec VP of digital Lisa Hsia.
Zeebox’s backers include NBCU, Comcast and Viacom. U.K.-based startup touts more than 5 million app downloads globally, with more than 2 million in the U.S.
TV Rooms went live with Monday’s refresh of the Zeebox iOS app. Anyone can create a room, and already Zeebox users have set up more than 4,000 of them, ranging from “6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon” to “Team Blake” for NBC’s “The Voice,” said Jason Forbes, executive VP of Zeebox USA.
“Up until now it’s been hard to find people who have the same affinities,” said Forbes, formerly an ad sales exec with Time Warner Cable. “We’re extending to richer ways to define what sort of second-screen experience people want.”
At the outset, Zeebox established 60 themed TV Rooms, including “Reality TV Time” and “Late Night Show Breakdown.” In the app, the top 50 rooms will be highlighted weekly and ranked based on activity.
Zeebox’s goal is to boost usage time of the app, to make the system more attractive to advertisers looking to reach TV auds on mobile devices. Currently, users spend an average of 30 minutes per session with the Zeebox mobile apps.
“The intent is to open it up for everybody,” Forbes said. “Many TV Rooms will fail, but many will succeed. We think this offers a wonderful fusion of social (interaction) and discovery.”
TV Rooms can be used by third-party content publishers, too, as well as advertisers to promote their brands in a TV context, according to Forbes. Startup expects to bring the feature to Android devices in the coming weeks.