FLO TV: No Mojo

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The pass-your-kid-the-mobile-TV-in-the-car use case apparently hasn’t moved the needle after all: Qualcomm is disappointed in how its FLO TV mobile service has fared so far.

“There are people who love it, but the numbers are not nearly what we expected,” CEO Paul Jacobs said at the Wall Street Journal’s All Things Digital conference Wednesday.

Mobile TV, especially a subscription-based service, always seemed like a tough sell to me. How often does anyone really find the need for handheld, out-of-home TV? (See Pocket Watching: Test Drive of AT&T’s Mobile TV.) It’s a neat-to-have, not a must-have.

Qualcomm has not disclosed how many subscribers FLO TV has signed up. For the six months that ended March 28, 2010, FLO TV had $4 million in revenue compared with $13 million for the same six-month period a year earlier, according to Qualcomm’s most recent 10-Q filing. (The decrease in FLO TV revenues for the most recent quarter was primarily due to an increase in customer-related incentives that were recorded as reductions in revenues, according to Qualcomm.)

Taking the $13 million in revenue over 6 months and assuming subscribers were paying at least $15 per month through AT&T or Verizon Wireless, that’s no more than 144,000 subscribers.

Qualcomm has dumped tons of money into the mobile TV subsidiary, previously called MediaFLO, including to license spectrum in the 700-MHz band. Assets related to the FLO TV business totaled $1.3 billion as of March 28. Qualcomm also has invested in Super Bowl spots and is now pushing the live World Cup coverage the service is offering through ESPN Mobile (see FLO TV Hopes To Woo World Cup Fans and FLO TV Is Running Super Bowl Ads, But Can’t Carry the Game).

At this point, Qualcomm is looking to extend FLO TV into a “more general system for delivering data to mobile devices that isn’t limited to video,” the Journal reported.

Will FLO find traction in delivering e-books? Or digital signage — broadcasting content to retail displays?

It’s safe to assume FLO TV is looking at those and other ideas, given the minimal appetite for pocket-size TV to date.

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