Qualcomm Reportedly Moving to Close Flo TV Operation

Last year, Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM) announced during the CTIA Wireless trade show that it was introducing a handheld personal TV to help boost interest in its Flo TV business, which has been flagging. This year, it looks like the San Diego wireless giant will be confronting reports of a planned shutdown of its Flo TV operations during the CTIA trade show that begins Wednesday at the Moscone Center West in downtown San Francisco.

Qualcomm executives informed Flo TV employees last week that the company plans to shut down the business, which broadcasts live events and other programming directly to consumer devices, according to a report today by Staci Kramer in PaidContent. The shutdown will reportedly be by the end of this year, although it’s unclear how that will affect Flo TV’s partnerships with AT&T and Verizon, which depend on Qualcomm’s Flo TV operation center in San Diego for their nationwide broadcasts.

Bill Stone, the president of Qualcomm MediaFlo and Flo TV, did not immediately respond to my e-mail query about the report. I also sent an e-mail query to Qualcomm’s public relations staff.

As we reported during Qualcomm’s Uplinq conference this summer, Qualcomm Chairman and CEO Paul Jacobs has been saying the company never intended to operate Flo TV indefinitely, which is why Flo TV operates as an independent subsidiary. Jacobs told reporters then, and Wall Street analysts a few weeks later during a conference call, that it was unlikely Flo TV will stay as it is through the next year. Jacobs also has publicly discussed that it might use Flo TV’s spectrum and network to ease the congestion on wireless networks.

“With respect to our FLO TV business, we’re engaged in discussions with a number of partners regarding the future direction of the business,” Jacobs said in July during the company’s conference call to discuss its third-quarter financial results. Whatever happens with Flo TV “will get done in the next year, but I don’t think I can be much more specific than that,” Jacobs said.

Qualcomm has reportedly spent $800 million to develop its Flo TV business, including an estimated $683 million Qualcomm paid to acquire the necessary spectrum licenses in scores of U.S. metropolitan markets.

Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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