Sezmi to be the last set-top you need?

May 1, 2008

sezmi-tv.jpgTelevision service startup Sezmi Corp plans to do what dozens of others have promised: kill cable and satellite.

Sezmi’s end-run around traditional distributors is clever, people briefed on it tell us. The system, which involves replacing your cable or satellite box with a Sezmi set-top and a media receiver (the speaker-like box on the left) purchased at a retail outlet or through broadband service provider. Connect it to your TV, place the receiver somewhere inside your living room, and you’re ready to go.

Behind the scenes, network television, cable programing and Internet videos from the likes of YouTube are delivered in one of three ways: over-the-air digital broadcasts, broadband and a third proprietary method that sends cable programming over unused space on a local broadcaster’s wireless spectrum to deliver basic cable network channels. To maximize capacity, especially with HD TV channels, the service will figure out what you’re most likely to watch and store them on the set top’s hard drive.

Sezmi will also come with a remote control with buttons that individual household members can program. Dad can personalize his homepage to show sports and news programs, for instance. Sezmi also adds a social element by letting users share favorite playlists.

What’s missing from the announcement? Partners. None were named at launch, although for illustrative purposes, executives showed us a Powerpoint slide filled with channels that cover about 85 percent of all viewing, including ESPN and CNN.The service will live or die on these partnerships. “I’m quite impressed with the concept,” Forrester analyst James McQuivey says. “The proof on this one will be the partners that they get lined up. I need to see second and third tier telcos and ISPs coming on, local television groups signing up.”Park Associates’s Kurt Scherf agrees: “It’s a great idea that needs some refining.”We’ll circle back when we hear more.

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