Why is it a turkey? Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) and AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T) announced support for Qualcomm's (NASDAQ:QCOM) FLO TV mobile broadcast effort in 2007. But the backing of the nation's two largest carriers--coupled with a subsequent, ambitious direct-to-consumer play by Qualcomm--couldn't save FLO TV from anemic sales.
Qualcomm's FLO TV technology offers television broadcasts to mobile devices. Both Verizon and AT&T resell the service to phones capable of receiving the FLO signal. And, in the fall of 2009, Qualcomm took its mobile TV service direct to consumers via the introduction of its FLO TV Personal Television device, priced at $249.99 with subscription services beginning at $8.99 per month.
Qualcomm tried mightily to penetrate the consumer consciousness with its FLO TV Personal Television device. It launched a Super Bowl advertising campaign in February, and added consumer-friendly interactive features and pay-per-day passes to the service.
However, by June, it was clear that the service was in trouble. Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs admitted as much during the All Things Digital conference. "There are people who love it, but the numbers are not nearly what we expected," he said. FLO TV President Bill Stone said shortly afterward that the service needed to offer more than just mobile TV.
Then in July Jacobs signaled that Qualcomm was open to selling FLO TV, and would also be interested in partnership opportunities. The company said later that month that it was holding negotiations to divest the unit.
On Oct. 5, Qualcomm confirmed reports that it would shut down the unit, and halted direct-to-consumer sales of new devices. Qualcomm said it will continue to deliver programming to existing subscribers through the spring of 2011. The company said it remains in talks with a range of partners, exploring strategic options for both the FLO TV service and its associated wireless spectrum.