FLO TV, Audiovox take mobile TV on the road

Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) today announced the latest step in its consumer strategy – capturing the market for live mobile TV in vehicles. Building off a partnership it announced at January’s CES with automotive entertainment provider Audiovox (NASDAQ:VOXX), the companies said today they would begin distributing the multicast mobile TV service to more than 12,000 new car dealers across 85 markets.

The service, dubbed FLO TV Auto Entertainment and marketed under Audiovox’s Advent brand, will launch in the fourth quarter of the year featuring more than a dozen live channels from major broadcast stations. According to the companies, the system will be compatible with all vehicles makes and models or any in-car entertainment system with screen sizes up to 10.5 inches. Car dealers will offer one year of the service bundled with the hardware for $199 per year or $299 for three years.

Qualcomm’s automotive ambitions put it in direct competition with its partner AT&T, which offers its own CruiseCast in-vehicle satellite TV service with partner RaySat Broadcasting. The company has been looking for ways to branch out beyond its carrier partners, including AT&T and Verizon, since the digital transition delay put a kink in its roll-out plans. Since then, it has rebranded the company with a more consumer-friendly moniker, launched a direct to consumer offering and added Rentrak’s TV Essentials media measurement system to track mobile TV viewing patterns for advertisers. Qualcomm’s goal is to complete a nationwide footprint covering 200 million people and the top 100 markets by the end of 2009, and it is currently live in 84 markets.

AT&T staked its in-vehicle claim in another way today too, announcing that it will provide the mobile broadband connection for the Garmin nuvi 1690, a portable navigation device with a built-in wireless module planned for release within the year. Consumers can use the device to access Google Local search and up-to-date local information through Garmin’s nuLink. AT&T will offer the device in the US bundled with two years of Garmin nuLink service for $500 plus $5 per month renewal subscription service after the first two years.

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