System combines cable, movies, TV, Internet
Seeking to capitalize on the era of flux and consumer dissatisfaction with TV and homevid offerings, a new company launching Thursday believes it has the next-gen solution.Sezmi is backed by a consortium of venture capital funds and features execs and board members with experience at Sony, Viacom, NBC, Bell Labs and other companies. It features a single set-top box and remote that bring together broadcast, cable, movies and Internet videos. Using an iPod-like track wheel, the remote allows the user to scroll through options, while the box uses an antenna to pull in wireless signals from cable and Web sources. The interface also encourages social networking by allowing users to recommend shows, movies or videos to friends. The system differs from Internet Protocol TV, or IPTV, in that it does not require major investment in infrastructure. The company, formerly known as Building B, expects pilot market tests to start later this year. “To deliver the full range of content that consumers expect at an affordable cost, we had to create a network that overcame the limitations of broadband and better aligned with mass market content consumption,” said Phil Wiser, Sezmi co-founder and prexy and formerly Sony’s chief technology officer. “Our integrated solution seamlessly combines the efficiency and scale of broadcast delivery with the interactivity and access of broadband. As a result, we are able to deliver a next-generation television experience to a much larger group of consumers, and we can do it today.” Sezmi’s FlexCast video distrib technology combines terrestrial digital broadcast television with existing broadband infrastructure to cost effectively deliver video content. Sezmi also uses an antenna-based indoor reception system that makes both its private broadcast and existing terrestrial TV broadcasts accessible. The networked reception system can sit in any location in the home, requires no adjustment by the user and can be installed without a service call. The system uses available capacity in existing digital TV broadcast networks and creates a private, secure broadcast transmission for content. The company is in talks with programmers, advertisers and Websites about content deals, but its technology will allow it to hit the ground running, unlike a new telco, satellite or cable offering. Financial backers include Morgenthaler Ventures, Omni Capital, Index Ventures, TD Fund, Legend Ventures and Western Technology Investments. The company’s chief content officer is Perry Simon, a showbiz vet whose background includes exec producing sci-fi series “The 4400,” founding and running TV supplier Shore View, and stints at Viacom Prods. and NBC. On its board of directors is Andy Lack, former NBC chief operating officer and now chairman of Sony BMG.