Sezmi's set-top enters the TV fray

Personal television-delivery service testing in Los Angeles

The cable, satellite and telephone companies that deliver television to consumers are about to get new competition by way of Sezmi, a "personal TV" service that is to begin a test Monday in Los Angeles.

Sezmi combines cable content with over-the-air broadcast channels, along with VOD, DVR and Internet video from YouTube and others, for less than $25 a month after purchasing hardware that runs about $300. Without the cable channels, the subscription drops to $4.99 a month.

The hardware consists of a set-top box that connects to the Internet and a more squarish box that acts like an indoor antenna.

Sezmi's content partners include several of the movie and TV entities owned by Time Warner, News Corp., Sony, NBC Universal, Viacom, Discovery and Lionsgate. Sezmi's aim is to simplify TV, said chairman and president Phil Wiser.

One simplification involves the "personal TV" aspect, whereby a button-touch tells the Sezmi system who in the family is watching TV so it might display the shows and movies that are recommended and/or saved to the DVR hard drive, which stores 1,000 hours of programming.

"That's a piece of information that never existed on television before," CEO Buno Pati said.

YouTube, Crackle, CinemaNow and a host of Internet video are each presented almost like any other channel.