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App review: Zeebox and ShowYou make TV viewing social

App review: Zeebox and ShowYou make TV viewing social

If you’re still kicking back on your sofa and passively watching TV, you may be missing out. Thanks to a growing assortment of “second-screen” apps that run on tablets and smart phones, you can now engage with other viewers, almost like they’re sitting right next to you on the couch, while your favorite show is airing.

These new social apps aren’t designed for watching TV on your mobile device. Instead, they can provide more information about the shows you watch, send you recommendations, alert you to what friends are watching, and let you add your voice to the conversation.

You can now choose from dozens of apps that add an elemental of social interaction to your TV viewing. Here are two we recently tried out and recommend:

Zeebox. This app has accurately been described as your TV’s sidekick: part interactive program guide, part social-interaction tool. Using Zeebox, you can get extra info on the shows you’re watching, discover new programs, and see what your friends (and sometimes, celebrities) are watching. Using popular social-media platforms, you can share your favorite shows and engage with others with similar interests.


Zeebox is really easy to use. There are three main tabs on the dashboard. Shows that are currently trending can be found in TV Picks, while clicking the Guide button calls up a seven-day TV program guide that can be customized with favorite channels. The Activity tab is where you’ll find the shows currently being watched by other Zeebox users, as well as shows that have been “booked” by you and your friends to watch later. You can also click on live keywords, called Zeetags, to get additional info on people and things mentioned in a TV show.

You don’t have to use Zeebox’s social features—you can still get info about the shows you watch—but signing in via Facebook or Twitter greatly expands your options. For example, you’ll be able to see what your friends are watching, share your own picks with them, and chat with them about the shows. If you’ve logged in with Facebook, the shows you’ve viewed will appear in your timeline, and signing into Twitter lets you tweet your own thoughts about a show and see what others are saying. Using the Zeetag tagging feature gives you more detailed information about the people, topics, music and videos, and products mentioned on TV. There are even links to make some purchases directly from within the app.

Which model is right for you? See our tablet buying guide and Ratings.

Right now, Zeebox is optimized for a few specific partners, including Comcast, NBCUniversal, and HBO, though it can provide program guides for most cable and satellite-TV service providers. NBC and HBO have enhanced some of their shows for Zeebox, providing some exclusive content and live viewer interactions during the programs, and Comcast Xfinity subscribers can change channels using the Zeebox app. Zeebox supports both Android an iOS devices, but you should check the Google Play and iTunes stores to make sure your device and OS are up to snuff.

ShowYou. Show You is all about Internet videos, and though it started out as a video-discovery app, it recently added new features that use social interactions for finding and and sharing videos. When you sign in using one of your social-media accounts, such as Facebook or Twitter, ShowYou will go out on the Web and aggregate videos from friends and people you follow, and then serve them up via a new, easier-to-use grid-style interface. When you see a video you like, just tap it to share it.


Among the most notable of the new features in the ShowYou app is a “social tray” that lets you see which friends are currently using the app and what they’re watching. You can invite friends to join a video you’re watching, or see what videos they’ve shared and commented on, both in-app on your ShowMe channel and on social networks including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. In addition to the user-generated video feeds, there are now more than 100 curated content channels to watch.

In the standard grid interface, you get an assortment of highlighted videos determined by an evaluation of 18 separate criteria. But there’s also now a “feed” view that lets you call up lot more information—including who’s shared the video and what comments have been made—as well a topics area where you can find other related videos organized by area of interest.

Shopping for a new television? Check our TV buying guide and Ratings.

ShowYou is also leveraging its new social features to bring more personalized recommendations to the forefront. The app monitors not only the tens of millions of videos on the Internet shared by its users, but also the videos you click on, to provide more targeted recommendations that improve over time. When you come across a video that’s not so interesting, just swipe the screen to move on to the next one, or activate the auto-play feature to keep them playing continuously.

Right now, ShowYou is available only for iPhones and iPads running OS6. It will also work on your TV provided you have an Apple TV, and on your computer’s Web browser.

If you’re currently using ShowYou or Zeebox, we’d like to hear what you think. And if you’re using a different social TV app you like, let us know about it so we can check it out.

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