Mobile
Commentary
12/2/2010
10:06 AM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
Commentary
Connect Directly
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Qualcomm CEO: Only 1 Million FLO TV Users

Speaking candidly during an interview, Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs estimated that during its 3.5-year run, only about one million people signed up for FLO TV.

The basic concept behind FLO TV is cool: Use a separate network to deliver high-quality, live mobile television to phones. The reality, however, didn't work out as planned or hoped.

Qualcomm launched FLO TV way back in March of 2007 with just one handset available from Verizon Wireless in a very small number of markets. Over time, FLO TV became available on more handsets and in more markets, but the service never really caught on. Carriers stopped bringing FLO-enabled devices to market some time ago.

FLO also offered stand-alone mobile TV products, and pitched them to families looking to entertain kids while in the car. The devices themselves weren't bad, but the service always required an additional monthly fee.

Qualcomm and its partners have been shy about sharing FLO numbers until Jacobs appeared at an event Tuesday evening with former Palm CEO Jon Rubinstein. When asked how many customers used its FLO services, Jacobs said about a million. When you consider the billions of dollars that Qualcomm paid for the spectrum, the towers, the network, and the content deals, it's no surprise that Qualcomm is calling it quits and looking to sell. (Jacobs told The Wall Street Journal that he expects to strike a deal regarding FLO in the next quarter or so.)

Jacobs said the company learned some key things during FLO's run. Chief among them is that people were more interested in events (concerts, sporting matches, etc.) and time shifting than they were in live TV. "Nobody turned on their phone at 4:30 to watch show X for half an hour," Jacobs said. "That was a total non-starter."

Cost was also probably an issue. The basic access plan for FLO TV started at $10 per month. I'd argue that the emergence of smartphones such as the iPhone and Android -- which are adept at playing back video content -- also helped reduce the appeal of FLO TV.

Jacobs still believes that mobile TV will become the norm. "It's just a question of how it's going to happen," he said.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
InformationWeek Elite 100
InformationWeek Elite 100
Our data shows these innovators using digital technology in two key areas: providing better products and cutting costs. Almost half of them expect to introduce a new IT-led product this year, and 46% are using technology to make business processes more efficient.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Tech Digest - July 22, 2014
Sophisticated attacks demand real-time risk management and continuous monitoring. Here's how federal agencies are meeting that challenge.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
A UBM Tech Radio episode on the changing economics of Flash storage used in data tiering -- sponsored by Dell.
Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.