Sezmi will customize the menus and playlists of shows for individual members of the household. Each of several users—perhaps Mom, Dad, Son, and Daughter—gets his or her own button on the remote.
Sounds great. But there's nothing for nothing. For letting Sezmi know who you are, the service can deliver ads targeted directly at you. It's a big advance over broadcast, which can tailor ads only to a geographic region, or even TiVo, which might customize ads for a household.
Targeted ads better serve the viewers, say the Sezmi folks. Somebody who has watched a lot of golf tournaments might like to see ads for new clubs and balls. And because the Sezmi system incorporates a broadband connection, clicking on the ad can take users to more detailed information and maybe even a dialogue with the seller.
That clearly serves the interests of sellers, who are likely to pay a pretty premium for that sort of link to potential buyers.
Some people find the idea creepy—that an advertising service is monitoring their behavior to shape ads. There is a periodic backlash when TiVo users realize the service knows what they're watching.
But it's no different from what Google and a multitude of other Web services do every day. There seems to be nothing wrong with tracking users, as long as Sezmi and other providers honor their commitment to keep personal data—names, addresses—separate from the data used to generate advertising.
And as long, of course, as they convert some of the ad income into cheaper rates for subscription TV.