On Monday, Sezmi announced a public pilot of a personal TV service combining off-air TV with the Internet. During the 33 years I've worked at TV stations, I've seen off-air subscription TV services come and go, including ON-TV in the early 80's and later USDTV, which, before it went out of business had a plan to transmit MPEG-4 encoded video over ATSC DTV.
Will Sezmi be more successful?
ON-TV was able to offer only one channel, and while very successful early on, subscribers lost interest as cable TV became more widely available. USDTV offered more channels, but never achieved the critical mass of subscribers to support the service. From what I've read about Sezmi, I'd give it a better chance of succeeding than USDTV.
Sezmi is doing several things right. First, they give viewers an easy way to view Internet video content on their TV. It also provides Sezmi with another pipe for delivering premium content, including pay-per-view movies to viewers. Second, they include a DVR function in their compact set-top box that tailors program listings to match viewer preferences and allows subscribers to record shows and watch them when they want. Third, assuming that this all works as advertised, the company provides an antenna for reliable reception of local DTV signals. If the price of the subscription is significantly cheaper than cable or satellite TV alternatives, the "non-linear" viewing available through the DVR function and Internet downloads should attract subscribers.
People accepted into Sezmi's Los Angeles pilot program will receive a free subscription to the service. An on-line application is available at www.sezmi.com.
Buno Pati, co-founder and CEO of Sezmi, along with Phil Wiser, co-founder and president, shared their thoughts about their new offering.
"The launch of Sezmi in Los Angeles is the culmination of years of development and dozens of relationships in the content, broadcast and technology industries," said Pati. "We are extremely pleased to deliver on our vision of a premium television service that maximizes value for consumers."
"Sezmi was built based on a deep understanding of how television viewers are evolving," said Wiser. "We recognized that a completely new end-to-end offering was required to meet the needs of both consumers and content providers. Viewers do not want to be limited by the linear structure of typical services. Content providers, who have invested heavily in their content libraries, are not embracing the free online advertising model with its questionable economics as the best way to adapt to the digital age. Sezmi solves both of these problems in a way that revolutionizes television for both the industry and its customers."
The Sezmi news release did not list what cable content would be available, but said, "The service includes content from major studios including 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, Lionsgate (NYSE: LGF), Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Universal Studios and more, as well as an extensive lineup of independent studios." Additional content is provided by Roxio CinemaNow.
It will be interesting to see if Sezmi can succeed where USDTV and others have failed.
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