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Published on October 11th, 2009 | by Babar Bhatti


Qualcom Introduces Its Mobile Pocket TV

Qualcomm Inc. is trying a new strategy to jump-start the nascent market for mobile pay TV—going direct to the consumer.

qcom-mobiletvThe chip maker’s FLO TV subsidiary operates a U.S. network to broadcast TV programming to portable devices. Up to now the service has been available on specially equipped cellphones from AT&T Inc. and Verizon Wireless, adding around $15 to users’ cellphone bills. Late Tuesday, however, Qualcomm announced plans for its own pocket-sized device that is strictly for watching TV on the go.

FLO TV Personal Television, as the product is called, is expected to be offered by retailers this holiday season at a suggested price of $249.99. Qualcomm also will offer its own programming service, with packages expected to cost $5 to $15 a month.

MobiTV Inc., a company based in California, has been offering a service that uses conventional cellphones.

John Fletcher, an analyst at the market-research firm SNL Kagan, estimates MobiTV subscribers will reach seven million this year, or about 2% of all U.S. cellphone users. He estimates FLO will have about 350,000 users, or a fraction of a percent.

Mr. Fletcher notes that Americans have tended to shy away from buying conventional portable TVs, which have the advantage of free content over FLO’s paid offering.

But Bill Stone, FLO TV’s president, says it offers an array of content that is available on cable TV but not over-the-air broadcasts. A bigger hurdle, he argues, is that people simply aren’t aware of its offerings. By going direct to the consumer, FLO TV has “a lot more control over our destiny and our messaging,” Mr. Stone said.


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