Our friends over at Channel 4 have got together with Zeebox to trial the Zeebox app in conjunction with Desperate Scousewives (DSW) on E4. Over the course of the broadcast, users would be fed specially commissioned content and see what cast and viewers were saying about the show as-it-happened.

So last night I settled down to watch, iPad in hand. In a nutshell, it was like Bad Movie Club (which I loved!) on steroids. All the answers to “What’s that track?” Who’s that?” “Where’s that place?” were answered. I could also read reactions to the show from hundreds of programme-related tweets from viewers, participants and the official Scousewives stream.

The app is well designed (not surprising seeing as Anthony “BBC iPlayer” Rose is behind it), and really easy to navigate.

The content feed was nicely timed. During the ad breaks, ‘Zeetags’ popped up on the left, giving viewers the chance to access richer content, namely short videos from the cast. Whilst the generic Zeetags were a bit tenuous (pulling up Wikipedia entries on football and Jesus Christ!), those created specifically for DSW were well produced and included intros to cast members, a handy Scouse glossary and links to iTunes where you could download music from the programme. If you’re that engrossed that you can’t tear your eyes from the telly during broadcast, you can scroll back through the Zeetags in the ad breaks or after the show

I only had a couple of minor niggles using it:

  1. I thought you’d have to leave the app completely to jump to your own Twitter stream – I did manage to access it via related links to the official Scousewives twitter account, but it would be great to have easier access.
  2. The generic Zeetags seem a tad pointless. I know what football is! The real value of this app will be in tailored content around a programme.
  3. I signed in to both Facebook and Twitter with the app, but clicking on the link to join DSW on Facebook, I was prompted to sign in.
  4. Clicking on one of the programmes means I’m showing up as watching it (I wasn’t watching Assault on Precinct 13 last night, if you were wondering, just looking at the page on the app).

All in all, I really liked Zeebox, for the same reason I love Twitter. It’s instant and a really simple set up. Desperate Scousewives isn’t my cup of tea, so I’m not sure I’ll be watching again, but I liked the addition of the app with its tailored content. I think it could be used for more serious programming (thinking back to my blog post about Channel 4’s The Promise back in April).

Incidentally, it’s a great way to access TV listings – and I think one of its big selling points will be that (once more of my friends are using it) I may be swayed by their viewing choices and joining a conversation online with them. It’s an extension of audience behaviour which is why it should work long term.

The history of my own experience as a viewer/listener goes like this…

  • If the phone rang straight after The Archers or Coronation Street, I’d know it was my mum calling to talk about the programme.
  • I sometimes spend a lot of time during a programme texting– one to one – with friends and family talking about a programme we’re watching on TV.
  • The Bad movie club experience – It’s only happened the once, but I watched in awe as a torrent of tweets about The Happening whizzed across my screen in Tweet Chat
  • Twitter interaction between friends and family has more recently extended to a wider network, for example an enjoyable late night discussion with people I’ve only “met” on Twitter about Ian Dury during a programme about him on TV – everyone else in my house had gone to bed!

The big difference with a conversation online is that broadcasters and programme makers can listen in to our conversations and get to know us a little better. They can also use this knowledge to inform future programming.

Congrats to Jodie Morris and her team at Channel 4!

Further info:

Channel 4 press release
Desperate Scousewives on Zeebox