Flo TV to Launch Sports Datacasting This Month, as Parent Qualcomm Studies Datacasting for Magazines and Other Opportunities

7/7/10Follow @bvbigelow

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Qualcomm’s Flo TV developer challenge, which offers a $20,000 first prize for the mobile app that provides the best use in leveraging Flo TV as a multicast network. The deadline for contest submissions is July 30.)

This could be important, because newspapers and magazines are hoping against hope that Apple’s iPad will be the publishing industry’s salvation by enabling them to generate advertising and subscription revenue at levels approaching the old media business model. But as Gizmodo’s John Herrman notes, buying Wired magazine at $5 each month from the Apple App Store would cost $60 for a year—six times a conventional one-year subscription. Gizmodo’s Matt Buchanan also observes that the Popular Mechanics’ app developed by Heart programmers in Objective-C weighs in at a mere 60 MB—while Wired’s app, done by Condé Nast with Adobe, is over 500 MB (and tips the balance toward Steve Jobs’ anti-Adobe tirade.)

Paul Jacobs at press conference

Paul Jacobs at press conference

At a press conference later that day, Jacobs later took a lot of questions about Flo TV. He said the data rate of Flo TV’s digital broadcast is about 6 megabytes per second, and the content of most magazines is about 50 megabytes—which would take less than 10 seconds to cache on a mobile device. He also said datacasting could be done in overnight bursts that would not disrupt regular TV programming. He noted there are challenges, though, including the fact that FLO TV’s broadcasts—and datacasts—are transmitted to every subscriber’s mobile device. Datacasting to mobile devices also is complicated by a technical difficulty in that mobile devices often travel in and out of coverage areas.

When asked how aggressively Qualcomm is moving to deliver this high-bandwidth datacast, Jacobs said the existing system already supports datacasting and “there are some data content streams that are being sent over Flo TV” now. (Stone later told me sports datacasts will begin by the end of July.) For Jacobs, however, the question really is more “a matter of who wants to use it, and what the business model would be.”

Jacobs also noted that Qualcomm never intended to operate Flo TV indefinitely, which is why the company structured Flo TV as a subsidiary. “We didn’t want to be an operator of Flo TV,” Jacobs said, adding that Qualcomm’s options include forming a partnership with an operator or even selling Flo TV. Jacobs pointed out that “nothing is imminent,” which is why he was able to discuss the matter at all, but he also said, “It’s not likely it [Flo TV] will stay the way it is now over the next year.”

In terms of Flo TV programming, Jacobs said “People care about news, financial, and … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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  • http://Datatician.com Monica

    Flo “SMART TV” means more peering into our privacy. No thanks. I use seetvpc.com which has been out for a couple years. No ads and No privacy peering issues.. Don’t trust this new breed of smart tv providers. They store all of your activity forever and will soon know more about you than you do about yourself. Or use another service like, Livetvworldwide.com instead.