The new markets are Boston; Detroit; Houston; Kansas City, Mo.; Phoenix; Portland, Ore.; Miami, Orlando and Ft. Lauderdale; and San Francisco. Initially. Sezmi only is offering its $4.99-per-month "Sezmi Select" service with local broadcast channels.
In L.A., customers can subscribe to the "Sezmi Select Plus" service for $19.99 per month, receiving 23 linear cable networks along with more than 50 broadcast channels and Internet content. The cable lineup includes USA Network, CNN, Discovery Channel, TBS, TNT, MTV and Nickelodeon. However, the service doesn’t include premium channels HBO or Showtime, and there’s no ESPN or regional sports networks.
Sezmi has built a video platform that delivers via broadcast spectrum as well as with broadband. It distributes through broadband service providers, targeting Tier 2 telcos that need a video play.
"We see meeting the need most acutely of second-tier telcos that have chosen not to go down the path of deploying fiber," said David Allred, Sezmi’s chief marketing officer. For example, he mentioned Qwest, Windstream and CenturyLink as prospects for Sezmi’s product.
Although the service is appealing to smaller telcos that don’t have a video offering and that need to compete with cable, it’s also attractive to the big telcos to provide video in areas where they don’t want to invest in fiber, he said. The company won’t announce its providers in the 10 new markets until the service is expanded, Allred added. However, the primary provider of Sezmi’s service in Los Angeles actually is Tier 1 provider AT&T.
"We have built a hybrid platform that combines broadcast technology, digital TV spectrum in the United States and broadband, which allows us to deliver a full range of content," said Allred. "It works with existing DSL or cable broadband, including even 4G."
To manage bandwidth needs, Sezmi delivers the most popular broadcast and cable content over the air via its broadcast mechanism, and it uses broadband to deliver the less popular programming as well as Internet content.
Allred explained that local broadcast channels have excess spectrum Sezmi licenses and then aggregates.
"Every TV station has 19.5 megabits of over-the-air bandwidth," said Allred. "When broadcasting in standard definition, they only use three out of that 19. The remaining bandwidth is available for them to do whatever they want."
Sezmi’s hardware includes an advanced antenna that "looks like a bookshelf speaker" to receive cable and broadcast channels; the multiple-array unit electronically tunes and points to wherever the broadcast signal is coming. The hardware, available online or at BestBuy for $299, also includes a hybrid HD DVR set-top and a remote control.
The Sezmi remote includes personalization buttons that can be set by different members of the family. User interface software keeps track of their favorite programs and makes recommendations.
Customers must purchase broadband service separately to connect their systems to the Internet.
All hardware is specified by Sezmi and manufactured out-of-house. "We started with the basic elements of an IPTV-type of box and adapted for our needs," said Allred.
Los Angeles Times columnist, Jon Healey, complained that Sezmi’s cable programming only is available in SD and that the picture quality isn’t great, to which Sezmi replied it plans to upgrade its encoding later this year.