Building B/Sezmi One True Set Top Box Aims to Kill TV as You Know It

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Last week, we had a demo of the TV godbox we reported on last summer by Building B—now Sezmi. If anything, their claims have actually gotten bolder: They're promising the "first complete TV 2.0 solution" that rolls up traditional TV with movies, on-demand, DVR and internet video, all presented seamlessly to viewers. That's a tall order, and moreover, an extremely complicated one.


Let's start with the setup. They're getting content to you in three ways. The vast majority of TV viewing is of the major broadcast networks: ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox. Happily, they're broadcast for free over the public DTV waves. That subwoofer looking thing? That's a DTV receiver for that picks up all of those broadcasts. Second, they're working on content deals with cable channels, which be delivered via private broadcast (via satellite, actually) that your receiver also picks up. The final leg is video delivered over broadband, to the box, which is also a DVR with a terabyte of storage: Some of the broadband pipe will be used for the cable content (depending on the load vs. private broadcast), but it's also the pipe for YouTube and net video obviously.


Ideally, you won't know (or care) about where the content is coming from. One of the big things they're pushing, which I don't know people will be able to swallow is the idea of personal portals over channels. Basically, it'll learn your viewing habits and create what are essentially smart playlists of content, drawn from broadcast, cable stored content and internet video, all meshed together—kind of like TiVo on Web 2.0 crack, since it has a TV Guide menu with a list and times of shows and whatnot as well, but decentralized from the channel metaphor. Each person in the house has their own button on the top of the remote and it'll switch to customized programming for them. The web 2.0 business comes in not only with the streaming video stuff, but you can recommend shows and content to other users. Channels can also have their own portals, kind of like hyper web pages oriented around their shows and on demand video content. (It's in this sense that it wants to kill TV as you know it.)

Of course, contextual ads are part of the personalization shebang, but I thought they were done well, and at this point, it's part and parcel of anything of that nature. Plus, the ads combined the whole freeness of the broadcast networks over the public DTV waves equal cheapness—supposedly half the monthly rate of cable, though they wouldn't get more specific than that.


All of that sounds (sorta) great in theory, but for one, I think it's too complicated for the average consumer, in the sense that they're still pretty grounded on the channel metaphor. Ironically it's the non-attached, non-HD-fanatic that they're targeting here—your aunt and uncle, maybe not your grandmother. I don't know if they'll bite.

The other issue is more on the business end. They've gotta sign a lot of deals to make this happen, both with content partners (I neglected to mention any like CNN or ESPN because Sezmi hasn't announced any deals yet, though some are in place) and with a front-end partner. That is, you're not gonna go out and buy a Sezmi box. What you would buy, for instance, is a Sprint box made by Sezmi as part of a triple play package (WiMax would go great with the service actually, too bad infrastructure isn't there). And neither AT&T nor Verizon will sign up, they've got their own video dealios.


The backend is also, like I said, extremely complicated—anyone remember Moviebeam? They tried a somewhat similar trick with riding the public airwaves. On the other hand, they have some serious talent on the board and there's a lot of promise in the ideas and concept, but I can't shake the feeling we might looking at another Moxi, if only because of the business end. I hope I'm wrong.

They're starting trials now in a couple of areas, though NYC isn't one of them, with the hopes of a wider rollout by the end of the year.

The first complete TV 2.0 offering that seamlessly integrates traditional television with movies and Internet video, optimized for on-demand viewing and is personalized for the viewer

BELMONT, Calif. - May 1, 2008 - Sezmi Corporation (formerly known as Building B, Inc.) today unveiled a next generation television offering that includes many industry firsts. Sezmi also announced that it is commencing trials in pilot markets in preparation for commercial launch with broadband service providers and national retailers later this year.

Sezmi is designed to address fundamental shifts in consumer television viewing behavior and is the first television offering that is:

• A complete TV 2.0 solution: Sezmi delivers all television content, including broadcast and cable network programming, movies and Internet video, in one simple package, unlike Internet-driven offerings that do not include traditional television.

• Optimized for on-demand viewing: Sezmi embraces the migration of consumer TV viewing away from appointment-based viewing and gives consumers the flexibility to watch what they want, when they want. Sezmi's primary user interface organizes content as program lists (e.g., My Top Picks, My Genres, My Channels) that dramatically simplify the browsing and discovery of television content.

• A seamless integration of live, stored, on-demand and Internet video: Sezmi removes the artificial barriers between content from different sources and provides a single and consistent interface across live, stored, on-demand and Internet video.

• Personalized and tailored to the individual viewer: The Sezmi remote control has unique buttons for individual members of the household. Each user is presented with a personalized homepage-like screen that organizes a line-up of content that is specifically matched to the user's routines and preferences.

• Extending the benefits of social networking to the TV: Sezmi subscribers can share playlists with friends and family, contribute to community ratings of shows and benefit from community recommendations.

• Designed for self-installation: Sezmi is a simple, out-of-the-box wireless product that provides consumers a high quality television experience in minutes.

"Consumers are waiting for the television industry to catch up and meet their demand for flexible, advanced and personalized features in their television service, just like they've come to expect with the Internet, wireless communications and digital media," said Kurt Scherf, vice president and principal analyst with Parks Associates.

"With the impending digital transition, the consumer shift to on-demand viewing, high definition, Internet
video, and other disruptions, now is the time for a true television alternative to emerge. From what I've seen, Sezmi's differentiated approach, leadership and industry relationships makes it a strong contender to fill this void."

"Sezmi focused on the television consumer and built an entirely new television offering from the ground up to meet the needs of viewers that want a premium experience at an affordable price," said Buno Pati, Sezmi co-founder and chief executive officer. "We have rallied support across multiple industries and are excited to work with our partners to offer a new and differentiated TV choice to consumers."

A Unique Approach to TV 2.0
"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 president. "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 has developed the FlexCast™ video distribution technology that combines terrestrial digital broadcast television with existing broadband infrastructure to cost effectively deliver video content. The system utilizes available capacity in existing digital television broadcast networks and creates a private, secure broadcast transmission for content. The resulting platform provides a breakthrough television experience without
the need to upgrade existing broadband infrastructure. Sezmi has also developed a cutting edge, smart antenna indoor reception system that makes both its private broadcast and existing terrestrial TV broadcasts accessible in an unprecedented manner. This network-attached reception system can be placed in any location in the home and requires no user adjustments.

A Multi-Industry Opportunity
Sezmi is working with leaders in the broadcast, broadband, content and advertising industries to create an entertainment platform that delivers enhanced value and new opportunities as the TV industry navigates through the major disruptions it is facing. Sezmi affords broadcasters the opportunity to realize significant returns on their digital investments through a proven subscription television business model and targeted advertising. Sezmi has entered into agreements with broadcasters in its initial launch markets.

"Sezmi's innovative platform enables broadcasters to enhance their core service, while creating new revenue opportunities," said Colleen B. Brown, President and CEO Fisher Communications. "Advertisers continue to tell us they want this type of measurable targeting to generate greater efficiencies on television and as broadcasters, we need this type of audience intelligence to more effectively connect our viewers with new programs."

As an end-to-end television service that incorporates an integrated broadcast solution, Sezmi is the ideal triple-play video companion to voice and data services offered by broadband service providers. "Sezmi creates a unique opportunity for Internet service providers and telecommunications companies looking to offer customers a differentiated triple play with its on-demand, personalized and affordable video service," said Jeff Gardner, president and CEO of Windstream Communications. "Unlike IPTV, Sezmi's innovative service utilizes the existing broadband network and does not require a significant capital infrastructure investment."

Sezmi enables content companies and advertisers to capitalize on current industry disruptions to create new business opportunities. Content providers are able to reach additional viewers, enhance their brands in an on-demand environment and drive higher CPMs through targeted advertising. Sezmi creates a unique opportunity for content companies to engage with viewers and strengthen their brands as consumers migrate towards an increasingly on-demand experience.

"Advertisers are demanding Internet-like efficiency with TV advertising. They want to target the right customer with the right ad, and have accurate data on viewer response," said Tim Hanlon, Executive Vice President of Denuo Group, a Publicis Company. "Sezmi is a breakthrough service in this area. For the first time, advertisers will know
exactly who—whether it's mom or dad or the kids—watched their commercial. Sezmi will enable improvements in advertising effectiveness and ultimately increases marketing ROI, two important goals in today's cluttered ad landscape."

Sezmi has established partnerships with broadcasters, broadband providers and contentcompanies to commence technical trials in preparation for commercial launch across several major U.S. markets later this year.

About Sezmi
Sezmi Corporation has developed the first complete TV 2.0 offering by combining traditional TV content, movies and internet video in a single easy-to-use product. Designed from the ground up with next generation TV functionality, Sezmi puts consumers in total control with a personalized on-demand viewing experience. Sezmi is working with partners from broadcast, broadband, content and advertising industries to create a new TV choice for consumers. Sezmi will be offered to consumers through broadband service providers and national retailers. For more information, visit