Qualcomm’s MediaFLO mobile TV business has been a flop. And the company now wants to get rid of it, CEO Paul Jacobs said during the company’s earnings call yesterday.
“With respect to our FLO TV business, we’re engaged in discussions with a number of partners regarding the future direction of the business,” CEO Paul Jacobs said. “We are considering a number of alternatives and we will update you as appropriate.”
We assume this could include a sale of the entire service. including the wireless spectrum Qualcomm owns, or just the non-spectrum components, so Qualcomm could use the spectrum for something else.
MediaFLO launched a few years ago after years of development, and huge amounts of money spent by Qualcomm to get the service off the ground.
The idea is that FLO TV runs on its own wireless network, so it offers better picture quality than early rival services, without taxing wireless carriers’ data networks.
But only two of the major U.S. wireless carriers — AT&T and Verizon — ever signed on. And it was only ever installed into a few phones, and never into anything people would actually want to buy, like Apple’s iPhone or a high-end BlackBerry.
More recently, Qualcomm focused on trying to bring standalone FLO TV gadgets to market, or accessories that would enable it to work with Apple’s iPhone (which haven’t yet launched). But it still hasn’t been a hit.
Perhaps the biggest problem is that mobile video has in large part moved out the hands of “mobile TV” aggregators like FLO TV and into the hands of programmers, via mobile apps and mobile web offerings.
We have never subscribed to a service like FLO TV, but we watch mobile video all the time on our iPhone and iPad via the YouTube, MLB.com, ABC, Hulu, and Netflix apps, and this summer’s excellent HTML5-powered Tour de France streaming site from Versus.
And there’s not much Qualcomm’s dedicated TV network can do about that.
More details from Jacobs on the call, via Seeking Alpha:
“In terms of the MediaFLO process, in discussions with a number of different companies, we’ve been pleased by the response that we’ve gotten and the interest that we’ve had, although it is very early stages and really just going around now trying to understand the difference, things that different companies might be interested in relative to that business and relative to the spectrum also that we own. We haven’t really put a firm timeline in place.
So I would say it will get done in the next year, but I don’t think I can be much more specific than that. The process going forward includes a number of alternatives, so I wouldn’t necessarily jump to the conclusion that it will be done one way or another. There are different things that we’re trying to do in that process to see whether we can retain some ability to give advantages to our chipsets, for example, going forward. So, a lot of interesting discussions, and its early days, but we’re happy with the interest that we’ve gotten so far.”