To use a metaphor those headed to Vegas for the NAB Show will appreciate, two of the three wheels on the Spectrum Repack slot machine had stopped spinning, and all eyes have since been anxiously watching that third and final wheel. The first stopped spinning on January 13, 2017 when the Reverse Auction concluded. The second stopped on March 30, 2017 when the Assignment Phase of the Forward Auction came to an end. The third wheel stopped this afternoon with the release of the FCC’s long-awaited Incentive Auction Closing and Channel Reassignment Public Notice. That Public Notice formally marks the end of the Incentive Auction, and publicly reveals which stations got cherries and which stations got lemons in the auction and repack.
According to the FCC, there were 175 TV stations that sold spectrum in the auction for just over $10 Billion in total. Of these 175, 30 are moving to a VHF channel and 133 have indicated that they will be channel sharing with a station that did not sell spectrum in the auction. That suggests only twelve stations nationwide sold their spectrum with the intent to go dark permanently.
For those stations that did not sell spectrum in the auction, the FCC indicates that 957 of them are being involuntarily moved to new channels. As a result, the Spectrum Repack looks like it will be every bit as complex and all-encompassing as many had feared.
In that regard, the Public Notice also locks in the deadlines broadcasters must meet for the 39-month Spectrum Repack, officially launching the rush to secure equipment and services needed by each repacked TV station to build out new transmitting facilities. The FCC had addressed in general terms many of the repack deadlines in various notices and webinars, but nearly all were geared to the release date of the Public Notice. As a result, while we generally knew how long the FCC was allotting for various steps of the repack, they all remained moving targets until today’s release of the Public Notice.
With the Public Notice now in hand, we have assembled below the key deadlines. Continue reading →