value of tv spectrum in incentive auction

On Friday, the FCC released a new report by the investment bankers advising them on the incentive auction, Greenhill and Company.  This report summarizes proposed auction procedures, but also sets out, on a market-by-market basis, the expected opening bids to be offered to TV broadcasters for the surrender of their spectrum so that the spectrum can be repurposed for wireless broadband use.  And these numbers are high – seemingly meant to attract broadcasters to consider possible participation in the auction process.  The opening numbers suggested by this report range from a high offer of $870 million in New York City, to a couple of million even in the smallest TV markets. 

While this report, and the table of expected opening offers that is part of that report, are in a format similar very to the Greenhill report that was released several months ago (about which we wrote here), those two reports actually represent two very different numbers.  The report released in the Fall set out prices that stations willing to surrender their frequencies might be expected to actually receive in an incentive auction.  The numbers in this report are merely the opening offers that will be made to stations to surrender their spectrum.  If these numbers attract more broadcasters willing to surrender their spectrum than the FCC needs to meet their spectrum-clearing targets (as they quite well may given the numbers being proposed), then the Commission will lower the offer in subsequent rounds of the auction, and the FCC will continue to lower the bids until they receive willing sellers of just the right amount of spectrum necessary to clear the FCC’s targets (which are yet to be set) for spectrum to be resold to wireless users.
Continue Reading FCC Releases Tentative Amounts for Opening Offers to TV Stations to Surrender their Spectrum in the Incentive Auction – and the Numbers Are High

There are more and more signs that the FCC is moving forward aggressively with its “incentive auction” to purchase TV stations so that their licenses can be cancelled and their spectrum sold to and reused by wireless companies for wireless broadband purposes.  In two significant actions this week, the FCC gave broadcasters a first peek at the anticipated value of their stations in an incentive auction, and also clarified the interference standard that will be used by the FCC when they “repack” the stations that do not sell their licenses into a smaller post-auction TV band.  This Declaratory Ruling clarification seems to be addressed to answering some of the questions raised by the NAB in its appeal of the incentive auction order, about which we wrote here (an appeal which has been combined with a separate appeal of the incentive auction order by Sinclair Broadcasting).  But, to most television operators, the more interesting of the two actions is the report issued by the FCC suggesting the values that licensees in the various TV markets might get if they surrender their TV licenses in the incentive auction.

The Report was prepared by an investment banking firm retained by the Commission.  It sets out the procedures for the auction, and how the bidding will work. The report also contains an IRS letter suggesting the tax treatment that would be accorded licensees for incentive auction payments in various scenarios (e.g. a pure surrender of the license, or a surrender of a license as part of a channel sharing agreement, or a decision to move a station from UHF to VHF in exchange for FCC compensation).  But what most broadcasters were most interested in was the chart of projected maximum and median payments to full-power and Class A stations in each of the television markets across the country.  Those projected payments ranged from Los Angeles, where the FCC projected that the maximum that could be paid to a broadcaster for surrendering their license could be as much as $570,000,000, with the median value of a surrendered license being $340,000,000, to much smaller markets where the value, in the smallest television market of Glendive, Montana and in several smaller Alaska markets, where the FCC did not foresee any payments to TV broadcasters for surrendering their licenses.
Continue Reading TV Incentive Auction Moves Forward – FCC Estimates the Value of TV Stations and Clarifies the Interference Standard for Stations Who Remain After the Auction