Sezmi video service launches as an alternative to other kinds of subscription TV

By Ryan Nakashima, AP
Thursday, February 18, 2010

Open, Sezmi: Video box billed as cheap TV rival

LOS ANGELES — A company called Sezmi is hitting stores with an unusual proposition: Pay $299 for a box that goes on top of your TV and picks up broadcast, cable and Internet video fare for a small monthly fee.

The downside is that Sezmi lacks some popular channels like ESPN. And it requires a broadband Internet connection, which you have to pay for in addition to the Sezmi service.

Silicon Valley-based Sezmi Corp. began selling its package in Best Buy stores in the Los Angeles area on Thursday and plans to expand to other markets over the next two years.

It comes with a broadcast antenna and a digital video recorder that are connected by a standard Ethernet cable used with computers.

The antenna picks up broadcast signals as well as specialty channels that the company has licensed from Viacom Inc., Discovery Communications Inc., Time Warner Inc. and NBC Universal. Sezmi receives those specialty channels via satellite, then rebroadcasts them to set-top boxes over unused airwaves the company has leased from TV stations. The extra spectrum was freed in the switch to all-digital broadcast TV last year.

For its initial run, the company is charging $4.99 per month for the 80 broadcast stations that anyone in Los Angeles can pull from the air for free with an antenna, plus YouTube videos that are integrated into a common user interface.

A “Sezmi Select Plus” plan for $19.99 per month adds a suite of channels including USA, CNN, Bravo, Comedy Central, MTV, SyFy, TBS and Nickelodeon. The higher-priced package notably leaves out The Walt Disney Co.’s offerings, including ESPN and the Disney Channel, and News Corp. channels such as Fox News Channel and FX.

Movies from all the major studios are available for rental for a fee on either plan.

Sezmi co-founder and Chief Executive Buno Pati said he hopes to bring on telephone companies as partners as the service expands nationwide. That would make it unnecessary to deal with a separate Internet service provider.

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