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Qualcomm cancels FLO TV

Mobile technology giant Qualcomm has announced it is pulling the plug on its FLO TV personal mobile television endeavor, stopping sales of new devices immediately and turning off the existing content service in spring of 2011—although content provided to handset operators through MediaFLO will continue without interruption. Qualcomm says it will make appropriate refunds to customers when it discontinues service, and while the company will try to “redeploy” employees involved with FLO TV, it expects it will have to issue some layoffs.

Qualcomm launched FLO TV about a year ago; the idea was to put live and time-shifting television programming into viewers’ hands via a dedicated mobile player, with content distributed via a dedicated mobile television network rather than tapping into over-the-air digital television broadcasts. Service cost about $9 per month; the devices were initially priced at around $250. Although although FLO TV was always lacking for content, Qualcomm had managed to line up some big-name partners, including MTV, Nickelodeon, and Comedy Central. FLO TV also carried anywhere from 10 to 15 live stations.

The cancellation of FLO TV may be the final nail in the coffin for standalone mobile television services in the United States; instead, live and time-shifted video content offerings are more likely to be delivered to smartphones and other Internet-enabled mobile devices via mobile broadband networks.

Qualcomm doesn’t seem to be giving up on the idea of staying in the content services business. “We are seeing strong interest in using the FLO TV network or spectrum to capitalize on the growing imbalance between mobile data supply and demand, the growth of tablets, and consumer demand for high quality video and print content, and a richer user experience,” the company said in a statement. However, it remains to be seen whether the company can bundle the FLO TV technology into an offering appealing to mobile consumer device manufacturers or mobile network operators.

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