Sezmi Launches Video Services Pilot in LA
The move should help showcase the key assets that recently helped Sezmi land a Light Reading "Top Pick" Consumer Services award: the nationwide broadband and digital broadcast service delivery platform it has built out during the past few years; the customer premises equipment and content management interface it has developed for its personalized services; and the real-time and on-demand content pool it has amassed by striking a number of partnerships. (See Sezmi Aims Beyond IPTV and Light Reading Reveals Its 2009 Top Picks.)
Consumers in the Los Angeles area will be able to sign up at Sezmi's Website for a three-month free trial. Registered pilot users will receive a Sezmi set-top box that will provide access to the company’s content package, which includes local, cable, and on-demand TV, as well as thousands of on-demand movies and Web videos.
The content will be delivered using a hybrid delivery strategy that makes use of the pilot customers' existing broadband connections (for on-demand content) and over-the-air digital TV signals that are decoded by receivers built into Sezmi’s set-top box.
What Sezmi, which recently raised more cash and slimmed down its operations, is not yet doing is identifying the partners that have agreed to provide the DSL or wireless broadband pipes over which some of Sezmi's content is delivered. (See Sezmi Raises Cash, Slims Down.)
Two years after the company came out of wraps as Building B (saying it was targeting broadband ISPs), and a year after completing its technical trials, Sezmi is still a few months away from naming its network and sales channel partners, says David Allred, senior vice president of marketing and product management. (See Sezmi Passes Trial Phase.)
"We have partnerships in place with a number of telcos and national retailers," says Allred. "We are still about two months away from announcing all of our actual go-to-market distribution partnerships. We've been in product and consumer trials for the better part of a year with national retailers and telecom service providers."
In announcing its Los Angeles pilot, Sezmi is stressing its partnerships with digital TV broadcasters (which provide the spectrum that enables real-time content to be delivered to the Sezmi set-top box) and its content partnerships that cover most major broadcast and cable networks.
"The pilot will give us a chance to scale up and test the market side of our operations -– the sales, getting partners trained and established, and getting customer service representatives used to answering any questions the customer may have," Allred says.
Sezmi will accept a limited number of pilot customers outside Los Angeles, but those customers will only have access to the Internet-based, on-demand content, since the content normally delivered over digital TV spectrum won’t be available, according to Allred.
One of Sezmi’s launch partners will be an as yet unnamed major national retailer that could compete with broadband ISPs by selling the Sezmi boxes over the counter and letting consumers hook the boxes up to their current broadband connections -- something Sezmi maintains is very easy to do.
Allred says that partner has the capabilities to be much more than just a sales channel: "They own some broadband infrastructure components, they own a large service operation, and they're very interested in bundling the product with other consumer electronics products and services that will be complementary."
That description suggests the partner could be BestBuy, which owns national broadband VoIP provider Speakeasy Inc.
Allred notes that Sezmi would work to avoid direct competition between its unnamed retail partner and telecom service providers as it rolls out in specific markets, and suggests the two bring complementary strengths.
"We have been working for quite some time with telcos, and they don’t have the best physical retail sales capabilities. They have incredible support, but with things like our service, it is important for consumers to see what that experience is like."
Sezmi believes retailers and telcos can work together, perhaps to create "soft bundles" of services that don’t relegate the broadband providers to delivering a dumb pipe, says Allred.
Following the three-month trial period, the Los Angeles pilot customers will be given the option to buy the service from a local service provider at prices as low as $25 per month for the highest-tier offering, although final pricing is up to the partner that delivers the commercial service.
The Sezmi set-top box, which includes massive storage to support a high degree of personalization, and the Sezmi remote control, which includes separate power buttons for up to five family members, are being provided for free for the trial, Allred says. The set-tops are designed for self-installation in less than 30 minutes and don't require truck rolls, he adds.
— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading