Is Sezmi Set to Shake Up the Cable Industry?

Could Sezmi disrupt the cable industry with a set-top box that blends broadcast and broadband content for a fraction of what people currently pay for cable services? We’ll soon find out, as it will finally begin selling its video product commercially, starting immediately in the Los Angeles area.

The two-part Sezmi system consists of an HD Media Recorder that organizes a mix of live, recorded, on-demand and online content, and can store up to 1,400 hours of programming, in addition to an over-the-air receiver that brings in broadcast and cable signals.

The Sezmi hardware costs $299 and will go on sale exclusively in Best Buy locations throughout the Los Angeles area, including Los Angeles County, Orange County, San Bernardino County and Riverside County. The commercial launch follows a 1,000-person trial that Sezmi launched in the same area last November.

Once someone has purchased the hardware, live programming is available through one of two service plans. The first is a $4.99/month Select offering that enables viewing of major broadcast networks such as ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, MyNetwork, PBS, Azteca, Telefutura, Telemundo and Univision. The second plan costs $19.99/month and also includes live and on-demand programming from cable networks like Bravo, CNN, Comedy Central, Discovery, MSNBC, MTV, TBS, TNT and USA. Both include a mix of pay-per-view programming and access to broadband content from YouTube, Crackle, On Networks and other online video providers.

While the system may appease consumers looking for a low-cost monthly pricing for its pay-TV service, the relatively high cost of the hardware could prove a stumbling block to mass adoption. Also, while Sezmi has assembled a good selection of live cable channels, some — like ESPN — are noticeably missing. For early adopters that merely want access to a limited amount of broadcast and cable content and are looking to lower their cable bill, Sezmi’s system could provide an attractive alternative.

Sezmi has raised about $71 million since being founded in 2006, including a $25 million funding round from existing investors ahead of its initial LA trial. According to the press release, Sezmi plans to expand the system’s availability to the rest of the country in late spring.

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