FLO TV Bows New Consumer Device

Qualcomm subsidiary FLO TV is introducing Wednesday a new consumer device for receiving its live mobile TV service, which is transmitted digitally on UHF Ch. 55 spectrum.

The new “FLO TV Personal Television” is the latest effort from FLO TV, formerly known as MediaFLO, to expand its subscription mobile TV broadcasts to platforms beyond cellphones. The company, which has been marketing its 12-14 channel, $8.99-per-month subscription service through wireless carriers Verizon and AT&T, announced at the CES show last January a partnership with Audiovox to create FLO TV-enabled displays for automobiles. Those aftermarket in-car systems, with displays up to 10 inches, are expected to be available later this year.

The new palm-sized FLO TV Personal Television, which was designed by frog design inc. and is being manufactured by HTC, should be available on retail shelves by the holiday shopping season for a suggested list price of $249. It has a 3.5 inch diagonal screen and measures 4.4 inches by 3 inches by .5 inches and weighs just over 5 ounces, and offers a battery life of more than 5 hours of mobile TV viewing or 300 hours standby. Viewers will be able to access the FLO TV service by buying one or three-year pre-paid subscription plans, with the $8.99-a-month plan available with a three-year commitment.

The new device has a much larger display than previous FLO-enabled smartphones with a capacitive touch-screen that allows users to channel-surf with a swipe of their finger. It also includes a built-in kickstand which allows it to be positioned upright on any flat surface, built-in stereo speakers for communal viewing and the ability for users to set reminders for favorite programming.

“We have offered the award-winning FLO TV service on a variety of handsets through our carrier and OEM partners, and we plan to continue working with them to expand the FLO TV handset lineup,” said Bill Stone, president of FLO TV, in a statement. “We are also thrilled to be launching the first of FLO TV’s direct-to-consumer offerings with the FLO TV Personal Television. We have heard from customers that they want more choice and, specifically, a device that is easy to share with friends and family.  With the FLO TV service available on mobile handsets, in-car entertainment systems and consumer electronics devices like FLO TV Personal Television, FLO TV offers something for every kind of consumer on-the-go.”

Similar “personal TV” mobile devices that work with the new ATSC-M/H mobile DTV transmission technology developed by local stations have been shown in prototype form by manufacturers like LG. Since the ATSC-M/H standard is expected to be formally ratified by the Advanced Television Systems Committee this month, one can expect to see commercial versions of such devices in January at CES.

Some 70 stations have pledged to launch mobile DTV services by early next year, though the business model for these broadcasts remain unclear and no formal agreements have been reached to date with wireless carriers. Most industry insiders expect such mobile DTV broadcasts will be provided free on an ad-supported basis, though broadcasters say subscription models are possible in the future.