Social TV startup Zeebox is rebranding as Beamly, and focusing more on interactions that happen when a show isn’t airing — a departure from the focus on live second-screen activities that much of the social TV industry long focused on.
Then again, not much is left from that industry: When Zeebox started in 2011, it entered a crowded market of dozens of social TV startups. Fast forward three years, and most of them have given up, or been acquired amid a wave of consolidation and growing doubts about some of the key ideas of social TV.
Zeebox is still standing, in part due to well-filled coffers, thanks to backers like Comcast and BSkyB. Jason Forbes, the company’s U.S. EVP, joked during an interview that one reason for the rebrand was confusion around the Zeebox brand. “People thought we were a German competitor to Xbox,” he said.
But while Forbes touted Zeebox’s two million monthly active users as well as its young and female audience, he also had to admit that some of its early ideas simply weren’t working. “There has been a kind of reality check,” he told me. Companion experiences like quiz shows and trivia in particular just didn’t work for highly scripted shows, he said. When people watch Mad Men, they just don’t want to be bothered by an app on their phone or tablet.
That’s why Beamly now aggregates and generates more content that can be consumed before or after an episode is consumed, thanks to three editorial teams in Australia, the U.K. and the U.S. The company also teamed up with online celebrities to populate its show rooms with content. “Every single show is unique,” Forbes said, which is why each and every show required personal attention from the Beamly team.
It’s worth noting that Beamly’s few remaining competitors appear to be moving in the same direction. Viggle’s Wetpaint also aims to curate content for TV audiences, and TVTag, which recently absorbed GetGlue, uses a lot of human curation to make TV sharable as well. All of that is costly and potentially hard to scale. Forbes told me that he views Beamly as social TV 2.0, but one has to wonder how soon we are going to see the next wave of consolidation in this space.