Sezmi to IPTV: This time it's personal
LAS VEGAS ó Industry trade shows often have the effect of convincing service providers they need to get on board with the latest, sexiest technologies or services. At least this was the case for IPTV, according to Danny Briere, CEO of TeleChoice. Telcos saw the whiz-bang features of AT&Tís U-verse, felt the pressure from cable and decided that was the path they had to take. Peer pressure can be a doozy. This weekís Consumer Electronics Show, however, was more about the path not taken. A common theme was the necessity for the industry to innovate to survive the current economic recession. Sure, Microsoft is doing well with IPTV, but for many telcos itís starting to feel more like pain than innovation.
Hence, over-the-top (OTT) video was the subject of several announcements, both from hardware manufacturers and equipment vendors, and itís looking more likely that telcos will be the next to follow. The stealthy Sezmi, formerly known as Building B, demonstrated its personalized IPTV system for the first time at CES. The end-to-end product ó including a full broadcast lineup, cable channels and hodgepodge of Internet content all delivered over the air ó promises to let telcos quickly enter the video business without the hefty network investment of IPTV.
The wholesale video service should be especially appealing to the Independent market, which has been left with fewer alternatives as the economy tightens budgets and SES Americom phases out IP-Prime due to lagging IPTV adoption. Sezmi recently completed technical trials in Seattle with partners Fisher Communications and Tribune Broadcasting, and it is beginning consumer trials this month. Despite expectations of customer announcements and Sezmiís promise of telco interest, the wholesaler is remaining mum ó for now. David Allred, vice president of marketing for Sezmi, said an aggressive commercial rollout is planned for 2009.
The Sezmi experience is extremely compelling, right down to the remote control, which features a button for each household member. Selecting a particular button pulls up content tailored to that individualís profile and past viewing history. Content is then brought in from sources ranging from YouTube to live TV to upcoming shows or downloads, and it is prioritized in a way thatís personal to the individual consumer. It gets even more interesting when advertising comes into play. Talk about targeting ó Sezmi lets advertisers differentiate between a 40-year-old mother and her 10-year-old son. Consumers will like this personal attention and intuitive user interface, while service providers should appreciate the cost and network capacity savings.
The Sezmi proposition essentially is the best of both worlds: take the vast majority of content off a telcoís network by delivering it over digital TV spectrum to a receiver equipped with a smart antenna and massive storage and only leverage the broadband pipe for any niche content an individual demands. No other product on the market today takes this complete approach. Some get aspects right, but ultimately OTT providers have forgotten the TV experience and TV providers just canít replicate the online experience.
The downfall of the economy and the rise of Internet content could create the perfect storm for Sezmi in 2009. If the unique wholesaler proves successful on the path not taken, it should be winning over telcos at industry trade shows for years to come.
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