View Full Version : Sezmi - viable alternative to cable/satellite?
06-29-2010, 01:41 PM
It appears this service has been in the news for a while, but I just learned about it via a mailer delivered yesterday. In nutshell, the Sezmi service integrates OTA broadcast with selected "cable" content, on-demand video, and web content (YouTube, etc.). The cable component includes many of the usual suspects such as TNT, TBS, Toon, TCM, SyFy, Bravo, CNN, USA, Discovery, etc, but no regional sports or premiuim channels (yet). These channels are delivered OTA with leased bandwidth not used by broadcasters - this method calls to mind the FloTV approach. The on-demand and web content are delivered via broadband. A 1.5MB DSL connection is listed as satisfactory, but 3MB or better is recommended.
The hardware includes a bookshelf-sized wireless receiver (aka antenna) and a 1TB DVR. It can be leased on a monthly basis, or purchased for $299 ($199 through July 25). The standard service, in which they "give" you OTA along with web content, is $4.99/mo (I guess that covers the program guide). If you add the cable channels, it's $19.99. This is the most intriguing part, since this price and content combination is about as close to an a la carte package as one can get.
There are mixed reviews regarding the cable channel PQ (not quite HD, etc.) but this issue is apparently the focus of ongoing development. There are also the possibilities of limited bandwidth given the delivery method, plus the usual OTA reception issues. I'm not clear if the STB box can be "tuned" with an IR blaster (in which case a new SS channel list would be needed), or if everything's done through a UI; also, there's the DVR aspect.
Sezmi is currently rolled out in selected markets (LA, SF, BOS, DET, HOU, STL, MIA, ORL, KC, POR, PHX) and the hardware is presently sold only at Best Buy. When I get a chance, I'll pop into the local BB to get more info.
08-02-2010, 03:32 PM
I took the plunge, purchasing the hardware and signing up for the $19.99 "Plus" (cable channel) service. The set-up process was quite easy, and my initial impression is that the system is well-designed. There's a nice UI, and the DVR does a good job. Some interesting features are the "mi" (do I smell a Nintendo infringement lawsuit?) user preferences system and the predictive recording based on viewing habits and indicated interests.
Since we are using Link extensively, Semzi is not presently a BTV replacement, lacking distribution capabilities (although Sling, etc. might work). My goal, then, is determine if the system can be integrated like a typical STB. What seems to stand in the way is the unit's default power-on into the UI (i.e. not live TV) and the seeming lack of channel number assignments. Since most of our viewing/recording involves OTA, we might need to relegate cable channel recording to the Sezmi system alone.
As an aside, the $4.99 basic service is akin to having TiVo with EPG for OTA plus VOD and selected web content (YouTube, etc.). This might be attracitve to a newbie in the DVR realm. and getting a decent number of basic cable channels for $15 more would certainly appeal to a larger audience. The big unknowns are whether (a) the cable offerings will increase over time, and (b) the company has long-term viability. One can only hope the a la carte idea gains traction, and maybe that FloTV or a similar company offer a high-resolution STB in the future.
For now, the jury's still out on Sezmi. I'll provide more detail / discoveries over time.
08-09-2010, 03:54 PM
Today, I pulled the plug on DirecTV and committed to Sezmi. We watch so little cable that I didn't think the possibility of no BTV integration was a deal-breaker. For now, I'm using the built-in DVR (more below) and think I can work out some reasonably simple method of distributing the output. Meanwhile, the equipment price dropped to $149.99 and Best Buy cheerfully refunded the difference. :rolleyes:
I was a bit surprised to find that the system (DVR + tuner) draws 28W whether on or off. I'm not certain if it ever "sleeps", since the DVR likes to grab content preemptively (i.e. "you might also like..." stuff). I'm still trying to figure out how it saved an entire movie when I started recording midway through the broadcast.
Again, it's not a BTV replacement, but a nice affordable add-on for basic cable and on-demand/web content. Stay tuned.
08-09-2010, 10:47 PM
I'd definitely give it a try if it was available in Chicago, but I'd want the full version like it is in Los Angeles. Keep us up to date if you can about the service, but until they can go the full monty it's a very limited service that I can get OTA now. If I could get TNT, SPIKE, SYFY, LTM, HG, HIST, etc they would have sold me. I like the DVR capabilities of cable/satellite, but if I can get my stuff on demand that's nice. The only difference is that with BTV I can have it record all of a certain program and hopefully know that I won't see duplicates in the future.
08-10-2010, 02:02 PM
I didn't realize the cable portion was only available in LA right now. That probably means they'll need to negotiate with broadcasters for bandwidth in every new expanded market. The list of cities with standard service has grown considerably, but I imagine the system would work anywhere with OTA. The company seems very concerned about reception quality, so maybe adding Chicago to the list is a matter of (a) completing a survey of the signal coverage area, and (b) shipping stock to local Best Buy stores.
Just so you know, the only channels currently available among those you listed are TNT and SyFy. The complete list is available on the website. The three we watch with any regularity are Toon, Nick and TCM (TCM is typically excluded from many basic cable/satellite packages, BTW). For a net saving of $35/mo., I was willing to sacrifice some lesser-watched channels, among them AMC, NatGeo and the local Fox Sports Network.
Given the cost of the hardware, the standard package doesn't make much sense, particularly if you already have BTV. In our case, the break-even point was at three months, so it really was a no-brainer. It would make sense for Semzi to add service tiers down the road, but they would need a critical mass of subscribers first. The Best Buy rep familiar with the system suggested that HBO was considering a series-only (i.e. no movies) channel - that would certainly be nice, but you know how rumors are.
On a technical note, Sezmi's picture quality is a vast improvement over that of my old DirecTV box. That might not be saying much given the age of the latter and the fact that I was using S-Video out. Also, from preliminary tests, it seems the output jacks might be mutually exclusive. This might be a configuration issue, but it could throw a wrench in the BTV integration effort.
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