'Real Housewives of Orange County' uses new Zeebox social feature

Fans of Bravo's long-running reality series, "The Real Housewives of Orange County," love to dish about the pampered, complicated lives of the show's female stars.

Now they'll have a new place to gather and discuss such hot topics as Vicki Gunvalson's relationship with Brooks Ayers, the new man in the recently divorced star's life. (For the uninitiated: This season kicked off with Gunvalson claiming that the two were on a break -- although it turns out she is secretly still seeing Ayers.)


Zeebox, a maker of second-screen TV technology, this week introduced "TV Rooms," where fans of a specific show, character or genre can gather to discuss their shared passion. This community element has been incorporated into the latest version of the Zeebox application for smartphones and tablets, which offers viewing recommendations and a program guide as well as content related to whatever program the viewer is watching on TV.

TV buffs can create their own virtual rooms around a favorite show or group of shows.

Bravo is the first network to take advantage of this new social feature of Zeebox.

The network will use the Zeebox TV room to heighten anticipation for the 100th episode of "The Real Housewives of Orange County" on June 24. During the two-hour special, current and former housewives, including Jo de la Rosa, Gretchen Rossi and Tamra Barney, and Bravo executive and host Andy Cohen will interact with fans in the Bravo Media TV Room.

"We're always looking for new ways to engage our fans," said Lisa Hsia, Bravo's executive vice president for digital. "There's no fan like the 'Real Housewives' fan ... and no better way to celebrate the women they've gotten to know over the last eight years than to bring the women directly to the fans on Zeebox."

Bravo parent NBCUniversal was one of the first media companies to partner with Zeebox on its U.S. launch last September.

To be sure, Twitter still dominates the social media landscape when it comes to TV.  Research firm Crimson Hexagon found that 95% of online public conversations about TV happen via tweet.

Zeebox Executive Vice President Jason Forbes said the TV Room app provides a more focused, communal experience, where comments about Adam Levine's latest verbal sparring match with fellow judge Blake Shelton's on NBC's singing competition "The Voice" has context.

"Many people are reluctant to use Twitter as a medium for things contextually tied to TV," Forbes said. "The huge advantage that Zeebox has is you can isolate or focus your comments around a show or set of shows with people who are equally passionate."

At launch, the Zeebox app will sport more than 4,000 rooms -- plus an additional 60 that Zeebox created -- with subjects such as "Reality TV: It's So Bad It's Good" and "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon." Advertisers and third-party publishers also will be free to set up their own virtual spaces as they seek to reach viewers on the mobile screen.

Future versions of the Zeebox app will feature live video clips and the ability to post external links, among the additional features.

So far, Zeebox has been downloaded 5 million times worldwide -- with users spending an average of 30 minutes a session.