Hands on with Sezmi (Finally!)

Dave Zatz —  January 6, 2010

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While there’s a decent number of Sezmi beta testers in the LA region, I’ve yet to actually see the hydrid television service in action until today (from the Bellagio). We’re still looking at a Q1 retail launch, beginning in LA, with other markets to follow in a phased 2010 rollout. Retail hardware consists of the 1TB DVR set-top box, a sophisticated networked dual tuner antenna array (think HDHomeRun + antenna), and remote will set you back $300. Their top tier of service, which includes not only the typical guide data you get from say a TiVo, but also a number of retransmitted OTA cable channels (in regions with service), run a modest $25/month. Certainly cheaper than the vast majority of cable and satellite services Sezmi hopes to replace. Sezmi also has some partner distribution deals in the pipeline, but aren’t quite ready to discuss them.

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The two most compelling aspects of Sezmi are the personal profiles and related recommendations (think a more sophisticated TiVo KidZone, for all members of the family) plus the aggregation of live, recorded, and Internet content into a single UI. Sezmi has the luxury of starting from scratch, rather than layering services upon an existing UI (and why I believe TiVo needs to blow up their UI). And they’re most certainly on the right track in terms of what I expect from a next gen set-top experience. However, the interface could still use a little more polish (despite the awesomely large and pausable picture-in-guide) and I worry their various distribution approaches could ultimately confuse consumers. But, I have to say, that I like what they’re doing. If you’ve got one in your home, let us know how it’s working out in the comments.

22 responses to Hands on with Sezmi (Finally!)

  1. Some of the personalization stuff is real clever. Let’s say Melissa and I each have our own profile. And our own YouTube accounts. Sezmi will maintain the separate Google logins, so she sees her playlist and I see mine.

  2. great site, this looks really cool idea for the us market, I live in australia and I know my pay tv provider I only watch 5 to 10 channels and I would only really pay for about 6 or so if I had the choice so from $25 per month for x amount of channels would be good, I guess they can target one market of channels ie. Kids and music or news and docs for example and I have been looking at sites like tvbythenumbers.com and they had the top 2009 cable channels so if they could get espn, usa, tnt, fx, discovery and disney I think they could do well, but espn $5 per month per subscribe may be a bit to much, also is there going to be video on demand as well(via internet I guess), also this type of thing, ie getting pay tv channels over the air is very common in european countrys like sweden, finland and so on, I hope it does well

  3. I’m in the LA Pilot.

    It’s lousy.

    The box is slow, often taking several seconds to register button presses on the remote. Kind of like modern-day cable company DVRs in that respect.

    The live TV guide only shows three channels at a time. There’s no number buttons on the remote, so you have to page up or down many many times just to do a simple channel change.

    The quality of the cable channels is beyond horrible. They look as good as video downloads on the internet did about 10 years ago. All cable audio is plain ol’ stereo – no DD here.

    They would need to make a lot of changes to get anyone to spend $25 a month on this, let alone $5.

  4. Thanks for the input! But, man, I’m not as observant as I thought… Didn’t even notice the missing number keys. I did see the mini-guide, but assumed there was also a fullscreen one somewhere. Hmm.

  5. I’m also in the LA Pilot. The box is in my bedroom…I have it unplugged. It’s REALLY loud. I have the aerial on my roof plugged into the box pointed at Mt. Wilson, so I have excellent quality of signal. But one huge thing they missed in their sales pitch is that their “cable” channels don’t broadcast in HD. The OTA channels that I get normally CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX are all HD when they’re supposed to be, but Syfy, msnbc, discovery are all SD and they look terrible. The box has a cooky UI, but the lack of HD killed this for me. We’re talking 3D TVs and they’re coming out with SD…sorry guys.

  6. I am also testing the Sezmi system in L.A. I have al the same complaints; sometimes slow responses to remote, SD cable channels (also the programming is different from what is showing at the same time on DirecTV or Cable), I found that the audio is often out of sync on recorded show playback, no sports channels, the UI is frustrating, no number pad for direct channel selection is clunky, until I connected my roof antenna the indoor antenna reception was intermittent and dropped signal. My OTA picture is excellent now. Remember, this is a BETA version. My hope is that Sezmi will make improvements. I wish there was a page on the Sezmi site for Beta Test feedback. Are they waiting to send out feedback questionaires?

  7. I’m in the LA pilot also. Same issues as mentioned above, plus I don’t get ABC or FOX at all, which is kind of a major downer… all the other broadcast stations come in “great” according to the sezmi antenna signal. But cable channels aren’t even worth watching they look so horrible. I called them to try and get some answers as to why I can’t pick up two of the major local stations – do I need an additional antenna, perhaps? No matter where I put the antenna I can’t get those two channels. They’re supposed to have an Engineer call me back in 72 hours… which now has about 24 hours left on the clock. I would probably keep the service for HD local channels and 1TB DVR at $5/month if I could just get ABC and FOX.

  8. The Reason that “Cable” Channels look so bad is becuase they need to compress it more then normal to fit all the channels in bandwidth they are given by the broadcasters.

  9. I’m part of the pilot as well and I have mixed feelings about the service and STB. They have a great idea, I just don’t know if they can pull it off. I recall signing a non-disclosure agreement so I’m a little hesitant to air my thoughts here.

  10. I am in the San Jose bay are pilot program. I was so excited by the concept of Sezmi and so wanted to love it……But…… here in the Bay area, sezmi is a lame duck product, they don’t broadcast any cable channels so its OTA channels only, and where I live (I live in the heart of the silicon valley) I can only get 1 channel and tahts PBS, no FOX, no CBS, no NBC nothing at all. I wouldn’t pay a dime for that kind of service no matter how fancy it is. And Sezmi thinks they can satisfy their customers with that kind of service , the product will be a huge failure unless the problems are addressed. The Silicon valley consumer is a tough one to satify, everyone is a techie here.

    The remote buttons are not the easiest to press requiring effort and more disappointingly its an IR remote I expected a RF one that does not need to be pointed directly at the receiver. The UI is not without its shortcomings and is not really intuitive.

  11. I’m in the LA pilot. I’ve moved the huge antenna box high on a shelf and next to a window… but in this apartment, the only channels I get are CBS, NBC, and the local KTLA 5. The remote sucks. It feels unresponsive… and it’s ugly. When I first setup the device, it asked me what kind of shows I like. Now it records the news and I can’t figure out how to make it stop. I assumed I’d get HD channels, but apparently it is just OTA stuff, which I can pick up with my antenna anyway.

    I’ll be gladly returning this once the pilot program is over. I was very excited initially, and became very disappointed within moments of setting it up.

  12. I am in the pilot and where I live, I get all channels at great signal. I love it! I watch more TV then ever because of the huge 1 TB hard drive and besides some glitches, it works great! Yes I would love the cable channels to be in HD, but at $25 a month, no complaints here. I was paying over a $100 a month with cable and now $25!! Hello!!

  13. just like everybody is sayng sezmi is a disapointment no numbers on the remote is a major turn off . but like others have mentioned its loud and the remote sucks big time you literally have to point at the sezmi box for it to work.i get all the channels but the cable ones look like crap im def not gonna keeping sezmi , i

  14. I’m in the pilot in Los Angeles, the reception is not good at all, and who wants to watch only youtube on the internet?? At $25 a month this thing is a major disappointment, in los angeles, you can get direct TV local for $5, or get 100 channels of satellite for $24 with dish network. Sezmi needs to at the very least add HULU, a browser that adds support for any flash site would be even better. I am returning mine unless they at least get HULU on board.

  15. I too am in the pilot in Los Angeles. Local channels are fabulous..but what I was normally receiving over a regular hd antenna. So why pay $5 for them??? To pay $25 a month for the other channels which are non hd? Not to mention the one time I filed a ticket with them to ask a question, and it got marked resolved with no response to me. Way to go on proving the customer service aspect.

    I’ll probably be returning this..unless it gets A LOT better. I’m fine with netflix streaming over my dvd player and my regular hd antenna.

  16. on the pilot too… echo every complaint above.

    it all points back to a rush to market with poor QA and poor QC on a cheap chinese box. what more is there to say.

  17. I use Sezmi every day and it really works for my family. They just did an upgrade to my box and wow, they must have learned a lot from the pilot. The box is a lot faster and the on demand area is much better.

  18. in the pilot also, and agree with all the complaints above. remote is clunkly and chunky. stations are not in HD. box takes a long time to load and boot up. noisy box. $5/month is a great price, but add on the hardware for $150 one time, will you be happy in the long run for the quality you get here? havent been that impressed by it yet. the user interface sucks, it reminds me of using a vcr when cable first came out. dont know if the remote can be programmed with all other electronics like the cable remote can.

  19. Does anyone have this who lives in Studio City? Does it pick up all the HD over the air channels? Seems like reception’s a big crapshoot depending on where you live.

  20. For any users in LA, I really do not recommend getting Sezmi unless you live like right by Mt. Wilson.

    I am on the Westside and only get CW, CBS and NBC. ABC and FOX do not come in, and all the cable channels are really flakey. And for the channels that do come in, if you walk by the antennae, the signal drops out.

    Sezmi does offer a free aerial antennae, including installation which is great, but ONLY if you live in a house, which is pretty dumb cause if you can afford a house in LA, you can afford real cable.

    If you live in an apartment in LA, you’re totally out of luck and should pass.

  21. After seeing this new Sezmi television service mentioned on C-SPAN during a discussion on the Comcast/NBC Universal merger, I became curious and looked into it on the Internet.

    There is a deliberate dumbing-down of America at play here folks – and surprise, surprise; they are launching it first in Los Angeles!

    Dish TV offered a 24-hour non-stop infomercial for Obama during the 2008 election and nothing for the McCain/Palin ticket, but they have the best remote controls, user-interface designs and HD channels!!

    Direct TV has a policy of not providing Fox News to folks in the Hispanic market that request programming in Spanish. They say that there is not enough bandwidth!
    Yet, there is enough bandwidth for dozens of worthless shop at home channels!!!

    Sezmi takes this a step further. By not giving you the choice in the first place – and get this – not providing a numerical pad on their remote – they have effectively said to their users: Sit back and we’ll brainwash you with minimum effort required from you.

    People in this country need to wake up to what is really going on in Washington DC, at the Federal Reserve and at New World Order headquarters before it’s too late!!!!