Sezmi Follow-Up

I’ve been meaning to follow up on Dave’s Sezmi post. I’ll start by saying that I love the idea of Sezmi, the former Building-B, but I simply can’t imagine how the enterprise will succeed.

As everyone has discovered, video services are entirely dependent on the quality of the transmission systems they use. Sezmi is relying on two transport methods, over-the-air transmission and fixed-line broadband networks. Both Cynthia Brumfield and Glen Dickson pointed out that leasing over-the-air capacity is not as easy as Sezmi has made it out to be. According to Dickson, Sezmi is unlikely to get more than 60 Mbps of capacity in any market, which probably can’t support more than ten HD channels at most even using MPEG-4 compression at very low data rates. Given that folks are complaining about the lack of HD channels with FiOS, how can Sezmi compete with only ten?

On the wired side of the equation there’s even more of a bandwidth issue. Sezmi plans to sell its service through broadband partners (ISPs, telcos without TV service, and some retailers), but if it’s truly successful, the broadband portion is going to place a tremendous strain on the Internet delivery mechanisms (likely not fiber to the home) of those partners. I can just hear cable’s new Slowsky commercials now.

Of course, all of that’s not even taking into account the issue of the content deals Sezmi is negotiating. Video deals are notoriously difficult to arrange, and certainly if cablecos and telcos ever truly sees Sezmi as a threat, no doubt those operators will bring every bit of leverage they have to bear to make sure the content Sezmi gets is not as good or wide-ranging as theirs.

Sezmi is attempting to do two things that consumers are anxious for: provide a cheaper option to cable TV, and create an effective interface that combines broadcast video with Internet video. On the first point, I think it will be blocked at every turn. On the second point, I think the company may show others a way forward, but it’s a problem that all the big guys are already working on, and will bring out their own solutions for when they’re good and ready.

Best of luck to Sezmi. These guys have been really innovative, and deserve huge kudos for trying something new. I wish the obstacles in front of them weren’t quite so daunting.