Qualcomm CEO Admits Failure of ‘Mobile TV’

At the All Things Digital conference this past week Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs acknowledged that its FloTV mobile TV service was essentially a failure:

Speaking at The Wall Street Journal’s All Things Digital conference, Jacobs said Flo TV, a cable television service that delivers shows from ABC and MTV and other content to mobile devices, hasn’t done well despite Qualcomm efforts to build an audience for the service with high-profile advertisements during the Super Bowl and elsewhere.

“There are people who love it, but the numbers are not nearly what we expected,” Jacobs said.

This is something we’ve been saying for some time. FloTV will now be reinvented or broadened according to Jacobs:

Jacobs said he envisions Flo TV evolving into a more general system for delivering data to mobile devices that isn’t limited to video. Qualcomm designed Flo TV as a service that can efficiently deliver content to a wide audience through traditional broadcasting methods, an approach that can reduce the network congestion caused by individuals streaming video to their mobile devices. 

The problem is not with user demand for video on mobile devices; that has been steadily growing and will continue to gain as faster networks come online and more people buy smartphones:

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The problem is that people don’t want to pay surcharges or separate subscriptions to watch TV on their phones. It’s possible that a few “branded” players such as Hulu, Netflix (maybe YouTube) could succeed with a stand-alone subscription for mobile — maybe an ESPN as well. More likely, however, is a one-price access model across platforms, which is what Netflix offers today. And the video content will need to include both movies and TV shows.

Fox-backed Bitbop has launched a mobile video app for RIM devices and will be introducing a subscription model at some point. Its two-tiered approach (freemium) might work: get people involved and then upsell them to additional content or commercial free content, etc. Regardless, someone will eventually get the mix of video content and business model right.