Excerpts from the blog This could be huge, if it doesn't confuse consumers who are already struggling to sort out their digital-TV options...

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Excerpts from the blog

This could be huge, if it doesn’t confuse consumers who are already struggling to sort out their digital-TV options.

A San Francisco-area startup called Sezmi today is unveiling its ambitious plans for a nationwide TV-subscription service that will compete with cable, satellite and broadband TV services.

Details are still a little vague, but the company has spent the past two years developing a system that combines digital-TV spectrum and broadband delivery to provide most of the programming available from cable companies, plus movie rentals, all available on demand.

Sezmi won’t sell directly to consumers. Instead, the service will be offered through phone and broadband companies that want to add a TV service to their bundles of voice and Internet access.

Executives I interviewed last week didn’t name distribution partners, but I’m guessing likely suspects include Qwest, Clearwire and EarthLink. They didn’t share pricing, but said fees should be comparable or less than satellite and cable services.

Subscribers will lease a 1-terabyte, Linux-based set-top box that’s constantly refreshed with new content in the highest available definition. The box connects to a powered antenna the size of a midsize bookshelf audio speaker.

The service piggybacks on unused digital spectrum held by TV stations across the country. As partial return for use of those airwaves, Sezmi is letting local stations build local portals on the service — basically a channel where the local station displays news and ads.

That spectrum lets the service beam content directly to the set-top box, avoiding possible bandwidth limitations of home Internet connections. A broadband connection is still used, though, to trickle down some content and to upload viewing information.

I’m guessing the set-top box is just a start. If Sezmi gets a foothold with consumers, I’ll bet it’ll start pushing the TV service platform into other devices. Co-founder Phil Wiser used to be a leader of the PlayStation business, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re talking to Sony about incorporating the system into the PlayStation 4 or 5.

“Ultimately using the PC as another screen for the service is definitely of interest to us,” said Wiser, an Internet music-service pioneer who co-founded Liquid Audio and was later chief technology officer at Sony Corporation of America.

Sezmi’s co-founder and chief executive is Buno Pati, a serial entrepreneur with experience in the semiconductor and video industries.

David Allred, a former vice president of Clearwire, is senior vice president of marketing and product management.

Playing games

Apparently Amazon.com‘s not going to start its own casual-games network soon.

At least that’s one way to read the news that Jeff Bezos is investing $3 million in Kongregate, a San Francisco online-gaming network tailored to young and mostly male gamers. The money from his investment outfit, Bezos Expeditions, is on top of $6 million the company raised earlier from angel investors, including LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, who made the connection with Bezos.

Bezos is careful to be sure his personal ventures don’t overlap with Amazon’s, and Kongregate had to be sure it wouldn’t be doing anything with the company before taking the funding, according to Jim Greer, the startup’s co-founder and CEO.

Greer worked at casual-games giant Pogo before starting Kongregate in June 2006. The site is ad-funded, but it’s exploring microtransactions and hosted multiplayer games as new ways to make money. It’s also preparing to launch several Facebook applications.

Wiis on a shelf

I had a rare Wii sighting at the GameStop in Seattle’s Pacific Place shopping center Wednesday afternoon.

Apparently the flow of video-game spending has temporarily shifted to “Grand Theft Auto IV,” judging from the big stack of unsold Wiis behind the counter.

I thought about hoarding them to resell during the holidays, but the scheme wouldn’t fly on the domestic front.

This material has been edited for print publication.

Brier Dudley’s blog appears Thursdays. Reach him at 206-515-5687 or bdudley@seattletimes.com.