Sezmi launches multichannel alternative in Los Angeles

Sezmi, a subscription TV service aimed at converting cable and satellite TV subscribers, officially launched Feb. 18 in Los Angeles and parts of surrounding counties, following a trial there last year. The service uses broadcast digital spectrum leased from stations to deliver local TV, cable and Web video.

The company plans to make the Sezmi service available nationwide this spring via additional distribution deals with broadband providers.

Consumers can purchase the equipment — a set-top-box capable of recording 1400 hours of programming; and antenna, from Best Buy — for $299. Two monthly subscription plans are available, one for $19.99 and a stripped down version for $4.99.

Commercial success is not guaranteed, however. Although Sezmi offers more features, like video-on-demand and Internet access, it is very similar to the failed USDTV service, which also used the broadcast spectrum to deliver a cheaper alternative to cable and satellite.

Headquartered in Draper, UT, USDTV — like Sezmi is attempting to do today — targeted the low end of the subscription TV market, charging $19.95 a month for 30 channels of basic cable programming. When it filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2006, USDTV said it had about 16,000 subscribers spread out across Las Vegas, Dallas, Salt Lake City and Albuquerque, NM.

Also like USDTV, Sezmi's pitch to consumers is aimed squarely at the dissatisfied cable customer.

Thus far Sezmi has reached content carriage agreements with all the local TV stations and 23 cable networks such as CNN, TNT, USA, MTV and Discovery.