Qualcomm is looking to shut down FLO TV after failing to find a buyer for the mobile video service, according to paidContent. The shutdown will come as a disappointment for Qualcomm, which hoped to create a new distribution channel for video on mobile devices.
FLO TV delivered live and on-demand broadcast TV programming from a number of big-name content providers, including ABC, Fox, NBC and others for $15 a month, but its big failing was requiring a dedicated device to watch the video on. Because FLO TV was run on dedicated wireless spectrum, only FLO-enabled devices would be able to connect to the service. That was a big drawback for the direct-to-consumer market, especially as some of the devices that could play FLO TV content, such as the FLO TV Personal Television, weren’t ready for primetime.
Qualcomm tried to remedy the business by white-labeling the MediaFlo service and offering it as a platform for other providers to deliver mobile video, using the content rights that it had already acquired. As a result, FLO TV was available on some AT&T and Verizon mobile handsets. Even so, the service wasn’t able to fully take hold. And it faced competition from Hulu Plus and Fox Mobile’s Bitbop, which offer subscription and pay-per-view access to on-demand video content from many of the same providers that FLO TV had signed up.
In a conversation with Stacey Higginbotham over at GigaOM, Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs said the company never intended to be in the business of running a cable TV platform via mobile, but had mainly started MediaFLO as a way to sell chips. But that didn’t pan out.
With all this in mind, Jacobs had said during its second-quarter investor call that the company was considering selling off the unit. But without a clear buyer stepping up, it appears Qualcomm might just shut the MediaFlo unit down instead.
That could be a poor omen for the Open Mobile Video Coalition, which is looking to launch its own mobile video service based on analog TV spectrum left over from the digital TV transition. Launching a video service that doesn’t live on existing handsets but requires a separate device will be a tough sell, especially as smartphone users are becoming increasingly used to finding content on the devices they already have.
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