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Thursday, May 01, 2008

Attention TV: Prepare to Be Reinvented (Again)

It bakes fresh bread, dry cleans your clothes, walks your dogs, and combines traditional TV content with on-demand movies, Internet video, and DVR functionality.

It's Sezmi, the latest box that hopes to befriend your TV set. (Sezmi was known as Building B when I wrote about them last year in Variety.)

Jon Healey of the LA Times writes:

    The company's underlying assumption is that TV viewing is shifting away from scheduled programming in favor of on-demand viewing. Its set-top box can hold about 1,000 hours of video, whether they be time-shifted broadcasts or programs pushed to subscribers based on their viewing preferences. Its software is designed for a different approach to TV, too, eschewing the typical grid-like program guide in favor of customized lists for each member of the subscriber's household. Those menus can change over the course of the day to reflect the viewer's habits, [co-founder Phil] Wiser saids -- for example, putting talk shows at the top of the list in the morning, dramas at the top at night.

    Borrowing a concept from online search, Sezmi's software will make it easy to hop from a show to related programs.

Scott Woolley of Forbes has a very comprehensive write-up:

    Unlike struggling Internet-based "add-on" services such as CinemaNow, Amazon Unbox and AppleTV, Sezmi aims to replace the cable or satellite box completely. Sezmi hasn't announced a full channel lineup but promises a "comprehensive" tier of favorites such as ESPN, FX and CNN, as well as premium channels such as HBO. Its DVD-player-size box also plays pay-per-view movies and Web video from YouTube and other sites.

    Sezmi wrote a clever and simple user interface that shows channel lists the traditional way or groups content into zones, such as football, movies or new content brands ("All Comedy Central content," for instance). Shows and clips related to that zone get stored on the box's huge 1-terabyte hard drive, giving it all the powers of TiVo and then some.

Analyst Will Richmond says that 'Sezmi Portends Major Disruption to TV Industry. He does have some caveats, though:

    If SezMi can work out its economics with partners and deliver that pricing to consumers, it would be a very compelling alternative to today's cable/satellite offerings. The key is to whom? In my briefing many types of customers were mentioned: analog subscribers, new HD TV purchasers, over-the-air households, and others. Given how ground-breaking its service is, in my opinion SezMi needs to go after digitally savvy audiences first.

Finally, here's the Gizmodo coverage.

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