Video services

Sezmi Still Seeking Telco Partners

Sezmi Corp. 's plan to shut down its Sezmi Plus service in Los Angeles and discontinue use in the US of digital broadcast spectrum to deliver content, is not a sign the company is abandoning its original strategy of partnering with telcos to offer premium video, company officials are insisting. (See Google TV Stumbles Out of the Blocks .)

In fact, David Allred, senior vice president of marketing and product management for Sezmi, claims that eliminating the digital broadcast portion of its service will actual help the company with telcos, which are now ready to embrace an over-the-top video strategy.

Sezmi announced last Friday (Dec. 17) that the Sezmi Plus offering was being discontinued as of December 28. Sezmi Plus, available only in Los Angeles, featured 23 cable channels delivered over digital broadcast spectrum to the Sezmi set-top box, along with broadband-based video-on-demand (VoD) and local broadcast channels.

Allred said, in an interview this morning, that having to negotiate with digital broadcasters on a market-by-market basis in order to use their digital spectrum to deliver the cable channels to Sezmi's proprietary set-top box was complicating and slowing down efforts to sign telcos as partners.

Now, Sezmi's believes its less expensive $4.95 per month Select service, which pulls in digital broadcast local channels and offers broadband-based over-the-top VoD to a set-top box with built-in DVR and personalization features, will have more appeal.

Sezmi targets telcos, looks abroad
In addition, Allred says, telcos are now ready to get off the sidelines and embrace an OTT video strategy -- something that wasn't true a year ago.

"One thing that was pretty clear, a year ago the telcos in particular were anxious or cautious about this OTT marketplace and for the most part, they were standing on the sidelines, unsure whether they should be embracing OTT or fighting it," Allred says. "What we have seen over the last six months on consumer side, OTT has picked up so much steam, telcos are now saying that this is a train that is not going to stop, and it's better to embrace something that provides a model that can keep cable out of the home, by offering local channels, plus OTT, plus DVR and personalization."

Sezmi also is focusing efforts on international markets, with about half a dozen conversations underway with service providers in Latin America, Australia/New Zealand, Eastern Europe, and Africa, Allred says. Sezmi already landed a major deal in Malaysia, where it will provide voice, data and video services for a WiMax network there.

Bringing services into markets where the only premium offers are often very expensive satellite services opens up new opportunities for Sezmi, which last fall landed an additional $17.3 million in funding. (See Sezmi Stacks More Cash .)

"The TV experience in most countries around the world is extremely basic so there is not a lot of differentiation with response to the experience itself," Allred says. "We can win with an efficient hybrid network, offering a TV service that is high value and fills the gap between free basic TV and expensive satellite services."

This is not the first time Sezmi has changed strategic course. The company originally planned to sell exclusively through service-provider partners but wound up going directly to consumers, when telcos were too slow to act on its service offering.(See Sezmi Goes Retail With Best Buy and Sezmi Sets Big Expansion).

— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading

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