Qualcomm Kills Mobile Broadcast TV Offering After So Much Money Wasted

from the could-have-saved-some-of-that... dept

Nearly five years ago, we predicted that Qualcomm was wasting a ton of money with its MediaFlo effort. The company had bought up a bunch of spectrum to create a special broadcast TV offering for mobile phones. It didn’t take a genius to predict why that wouldn’t make much sense. First of all, using spectrum for straight broadcast video ignores that content is increasingly multi-directional, interactive and on-demand. In an age where more and more people were using their DVRs to time shift, their iPods to place shift and mobile phones to communicate on the go, the idea of watching broadcast television on your mobile phone just seemed to be a solution stuck in a prediction from decades ago, rather than one that actually looked at what the technology allowed.

I have to admit that after writing a few negative pieces on MediaFlo, I did get a nasty email from someone at Qualcomm, who insisted that I didn’t know what I was talking about, and the demand for such a broadcast TV system, just for mobile devices, was “off the charts.” Apparently, it was off the charts in the wrong direction. After spending so much money, Qualcomm recently announced that it’s shutting down the effort (which is now called Flo TV). Next time, Qualcomm, if you’re looking to throw away hundreds of millions of dollars, you can just give it to me, and I’ll save you the trouble…

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Companies: qualcomm

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Comments on “Qualcomm Kills Mobile Broadcast TV Offering After So Much Money Wasted”

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Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Your take-away from this story is incorrect. You don’t understand the difference between the FLO and Japanese Model. The Japanese model could work here. People just aren’t that different.

The Japanese case has TV broadcasters offering up digital streams of their (already existent) free-to-air TV broadcasts. Many mobile phones are equipped with a very cheap (

Derek Kerton (profile) says:


CTIA isn’t really a spectrum swap! It’s a trade show, and this one was focused on Enterprise apps.

Qualcomm’s current plan is to consider using the spectrum and broadcast equipment to cheaply upload content into mobile devices, phones, telematics (cars), etc. By doing this, carriers could avoid using their separate and expensive voice/data networks.

This current idea will also fail. That’s because FLO still requires a separate radio chip and antennas, and because the same value proposition could more cheaply and simply be achieved using overnight, latent cellular network capacity.

Lawrence D'Oliveiro says:

Apropos C Northcote Parkinson

The man who thought up “Parkinson’s Law” wrote a whole series of books on bureaucracy and management, which I devoured in my teens.

One principle I remember is that someone who is always right never gets rewarded or promoted for their brilliance, simply because everybody else is jealous of the smartarse. Whereas somebody who is always wrong is very useful to have around; simply do the opposite of what they suggest. And being the sort who is always wrong, they will never realize how valuable they are, so it won’t go to their head.

out_of_the_blue says:

Crowing again, Mike: the spectrum space is still valuable.

Managed right, it’s more valuable than before, and meanwhile the subsidiary was a tax shelter, now can go bankrupt, so I’d bet Qualcomm made out. It’s actually *difficult* to lose hundreds of millions, except on paper for tax purposes. All through the 80’s and 90’s we heard that the airlines were losing money, yet planes kept flying.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Crowing again, Mike: the spectrum space is still valuable.

What? Try deploying a cellular network, designing chips, getting them into production (you generally have to fund the consumer electronics vendors for their development). Do that, then tell me again how it’s hard to lose hundreds of millions. This stuff is very expensive.

The US cellular industry spent $20 Billion in Capital Expenditures from June2009-2010.

Yes, the spectrum retains its value, or better.

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