A good week so far for British TV fans, especially those who want a little more interactivity than simply mashing a red button. The UK's satellite behemoth has announced a partnership with zeebox to create a companion app for its scheduling. Once released, you'll be able to connect with fans of the same shows, digest more program information and even purchase on-screen products. You might be doing all of these things with a laptop or tablet already, of course, but at least now you can spare your non-interested friends all those continued America's next top model tweets. If this sounds a bit like Facebook, Twitter and Amazon functionality bundled into an app, you might be right. Sky, however, clearly hopes this dedicated approach will give its programming that extra edge once the iPad / iPhone app pops up some time before the end of Q2. Viewers without iDevices will be able to access the goodies via more vanilla online methods. Hit the PR over the jump for more info.
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Sky Customers to Enjoy Ground Breaking 'Augmented TV' Through zeebox Partnership

Sky to extend companion device leadership by integrating zeebox functionality into tablet and smartphone app family

Sky has entered into a strategic partnership with zeebox, the innovative 'second-screen' consumer service that brings together broadcast TV and the Internet. Launching in the first half of 2012, Sky and zeebox will offer a ground breaking companion app experience for Sky customers which offers unique 'augmented' TV viewing features, such as connecting with friends around TV shows, finding more information about what's on TV, and buying products relating to their favourite programmes.

Sky will become the only TV platform in the UK to integrate zeebox's technology into its own applications – which include Sky+ and the multi award-winning Sky Go - to give its customers an even richer companion experience to complement their main set viewing.

The zeebox service – currently available on iPhone, iPad and the Web – serves up social media feeds and conversations via Twitter and Facebook, as well as additional information on the topics, people and products featured within specific programmes. Consumers use these 'zeetags' to search the web for more information, read up on characters or actors, purchase music, buy products featured on-screen - whether during programmes or ad breaks, or simply share their views with friends and followers on social media.

From later this year, Sky customers will also be able to use a zeebox powered Sky app to access their Sky+ box on the move, so they can manage their Sky+ recording remotely, as well as using their iPhone or iPad as a remote control for their Sky box, creating a comprehensive and fully integrated companion TV experience.

Led by Ernesto Schmitt, a former EMI board director, and Anthony Rose, who developed and launched the BBC iPlayer, zeebox has enjoyed considerable success since the public launch of its app in late October 2011.

As part of this multi-million pound strategic partnership, Sky has become an investor in zeebox and has taken a 10% equity stake, providing funding to support the company's future product roadmap and global rollout plans. As part of the deal Sky Media will become the exclusive advertising sales agent for zeebox's synchronised advertising inventory. zeebox remains an independent company continuing to operate its own zeebox branded social TV platform in the UK and elsewhere. It will continue to deliver an innovative second-screen platform that broadcasters and programme-makers can use to support and enrich their shows, connect with fans, and obtain new insights into viewer behaviour.

Emma Lloyd, Sky's Director of Emerging Products, comments: "Sky took an early position of leadership with companion devices, having recognised the demand from our customers to use second screens to discover, enjoy and interact with their favourite content. The integration of zeebox's innovative technology will enable us to make the companion device experience even richer and more engaging. We know that millions of our customers have smartphones and tablets and regularly use them to engage with Sky on mobile devices, so it's a natural next step for us."

Ernesto Schmitt, zeebox's co-founder and CEO, adds: "Sky has a strong track record of innovation, and we are delighted to partner with them to deliver zeebox's social TV vision to millions of Sky homes. Thanks to Sky's backing we now also have the resources and expertise to set our sights firmly on international expansion alongside further innovation here in the UK and Ireland."

Sky already offers customers more than a dozen high quality apps across Apple devices, Android and other phones. Sky's apps include the award-winning Sky Go, Sky News for iPad, Sky Movies, and the recently launched Sky Sports News on iPad app. According to comScore data for October 2011, three of Sky's apps appeared in the top 20 UK apps by cellular data usage in the UK. Collectively, Sky's apps have been downloaded more than 20 million times. Sky is one of the UK's leading media content providers and is the number one commercial content brand in news and sport.

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