Let’s Give Mobile TV a Sporting Chance

Travelling in the US recently, I had the opportunity to play around with a FLO portable TV device. The HTC-manufactured PTV 350 (shown below) works with Qualcomm’s FLO TV service. It’s optimised for broadcast TV services and is one of the latest of a growing number of FLO-enabled devices.

HTC PTV 350 showing FLO TV

I was very impressed with the overall package. The PTV 350 was easy to use and rarely had any problems. Changing channels was as simple as swiping the screen up or down (provided the auto channel switching feature was enabled). Occasionally the screen would freeze, which was annoying, because it generally happened when I was engrossed in whatever I was watching. The electronic programme guide (EPG) was simple to use and I could set reminders for programmes for later in the day or for the day after. I think there’s a big opportunity to tie video recording functionality into the EPG, allowing people to watch programmes offline. I’m sure this will come in time.

What really amazed me was the quality of coverage. I accessed the mobile TV service right across the US, while travelling on trains, in cars and taxis and at airports. Coverage indoors was equally as good as outside. At times I had much better coverage on the PTV 350 than on my BlackBerry and other phones, which struggled to find a cellular signal. This is because Qualcomm has secured spectrum in lower frequencies, giving better in-building coverage for its mobile TV service.

Although the PTV 350 left a good impression, I’m not sure I’d spend $200 on one. That price includes six months’ access to a package of at least 15 channels, but an annual subscription to the package is another $150.

It all boils down to whether people have a need to watch TV while on the go. In my view, many people simply cannot justify spending extra money on a service they might not want or are already paying for at home. I’d like to see broadcasters rethinking the type of content on offer and considering more live sporting events. In Europe viewers have shown a willingness to pay for sports content, and FLO TV’s live access to collegiate basketball in partnership with CBS is a step in the right direction. With many fine sporting events taking place over the next couple of years, including the FIFA World Cup and the Olympics, there’s a chance for people to watch their favourite event, team or country anywhere, anytime and anyplace.

Thanks to Qualcomm for the loan of a PTV 350.