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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 (s BBY) 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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6 Responses to “Is Sezmi Set to Shake Up the Cable Industry?”

  1. Screenking

    Some of the early test customers report tons of bugs with the box. Also, the cable channels are not available in HD since they’re being broadcast via open space on the analog spectrum – in other words, heavily compressed SD channels. Sounds like a pretty poor replacement for cable if you ask me.

    I would wait and see what announcement is coming from Tivo on march 2nd – they may have something that will trump Sezmi’s offering.

    • Ryan Lawler

      I hadn’t seen reports of problems with test customers… Where do you suggest I look? As for the difference in SD vs. HD quality — that’s an important point, but you get what you pay for, right? I don’t think anyone who’s paying $20/month for this service will expect it to be equivalent to a $100 cable package.

      I should be at the TiVo event — definitely looking forward to seeing what they have to announce.

    • I am a Sezmi user and the service is great for me and my family. They just did a major upgrade so think that the early feedback was pretty good but think that they have fixed most of that, atleast for me. Tivo doesn’t have any actual TV channels, so they are not really an option for me. The Tivo box is also close to $500 plus you need to pay for something every month AND pay for actual TV from someone like cable, right?

  2. You can hear an interview with Sezmi co-founder/CEO Phil Wiser, airing live last month on Tomorrow Will Be Televised, the Internet radio program covering the TV scene, on replay 24/7 at, or on podcast, downloadable to any major mobile device, through and 14 other Web download sites. Wiser has plenty to say about how this alternative distribution system works and the rollout plans. Check it out and offer any feedback you like.

    Simon Applebaum
    Producer/Host, Tomorrow Will Be Televised
    (Mondays/Fridays at 3 p.m. ET/noon PT on BlogTalk Radio)