FLO not going anywhere - for at least four months
It has not been a fun time recently for those companies who have invested in mobile broadcast TV services. Firstly, their parade was rained on by the chipset vendors who developed receivers which could pick up transmissions from analogue and digital terrestrial networks, thereby meaning that consumers could pick up existing TV channels at no extra charge and obviating the need for a dedicated mobile broadcast network – witness the decision of Mobile 3.0 to return its DVB-H licence in November 2008 when operators starting offering DVB-T-enabled handsets.
Next up: the global economic downturn. Lower discretionary spend levels, meaning that, even if a company launches a mobile broadcast TV network, then consumers are less willing (and indeed able) to fork out the several hundred dollars required for a handset offering DVB-H, or FLO, or any of the other 639 mobile broadcast TV standards, let alone the additional cost of a weekly or monthly subscription to their services.
Worse still, the advertising market has fallen through the floor, and with cost per mille rates continuing to decline those companies which were hoping to augment pay TV revenues with advertising had better think again.
And now we have the announcement that the US government has delayed the country’s digital switchover by four months, to mid-June 2009. This is bad news for Qualcomm, which had been set to roll out its FLO services in 40 new markets later this month, but must now put those plans on hold.
As Qualcomm realizes, for a mobile TV service to succeed, the maximum possible audience must be exposed to it, but until the digital switchover goes ahead, vast swathes of the country will remain unable to access FLO. And the great mobile broadcast TV revolution remains as far away as ever…