CES 2010: FLO TV Eyes VOD, ATSC Mobile DTV Spec

Qualcomm's FLO TV unit is looking to provide video-on-demand capabilities to augment its mobile TV service, and may add the ability to access local broadcasters' mobile TV channels to its portable television device, according to president Bill Stone.

San Diego-based FLO TV currently offers service in the top 110 markets in the U.S., covering some 210 million people, delivered over its own dedicated network in the 700-MHz spectrum. It offers more than a dozen channels with content from broadcast and cable networks.

To augment that lineup, the company may add the ability for its FLO Personal Television to tune to the ATSC's Mobile DTV, which is being promoted by the Open Mobile Video Coalition. Here at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show, the OMVC and its partners including Samsung, LG Electronics and Dell are showing off devices designed for spec. The coalition, which represents more than 800 local TV stations, plans to launch a customer trial in Washington, D.C., this year.

"Our number one issue right now is awareness," Stone said. "Our position is, if [the OMVC] can introduce more people to the idea of mobile TV it will help us. We're embracing it."

A VOD component of FLO is also in the works, though it won't work exactly like cable VOD.

Stone explained that FLO's dedicated 6 MHz of wireless spectrum lets it broadcast 20 mobile channels, or a combination of linear video channels and datacasting. In the space of one mobile TV channel, FLO can send out 32 hours of VOD content per day; users would need to indicate ahead of time which programs they wanted to have downloaded to their device.

Other new features include Facebook integration and the ability to chat with other FLO users, features that Stone says highlight the live programming on the service.

Last fall, FLO TV announced a direct-to-consumer offering with the retail launch of FLO TV Personal Television device, to supplement its distribution agreements with AT&T and Verizon Wireless. The service costs around $10 per month.

And earlier this week, it announced a partnership with Mophie, a developer of batteries and other accessories for Apple iPhones, to create a "sleeve" for iPhones based on Mophie's external rechargeable battery add-on to receive FLO's service.

FLO TV provides more than a dozen linear channels with content from ABC, Disney Channel, ABC Family, Adult Swim, CBS, CNBC, Comedy Central, ESPN, Fox, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, MTV, NBC, Nickelodeon and other programmers. Some are simulcasts of the regular TV networks, while others are specially programmed mobile channels.

FLO has not disclosed subscriber figures, citing confidentiality agreements with AT&T and Verizon. However, in 2010, Stone said the company will being reporting an aggregate number of FLO TV subs that include its own direct-to-consumer customers.

Meanwhile, FLO also is working with Audiovox to sell a device that connects to a car's entertainment system to provide access to the mobile TV service.  About 17.6 million TV systems for automobiles will ship in 2015, up from 8.2 million in 2009, according to market research firm iSuppli.