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Dolan Behind Spectrum Bid

Cablevision Systems Corp. chairman Charles Dolan’s decision to move beyond cable first involved satellite. Now, he’s trying to innovate a little closer to the planet.

In a federal filing Wednesday that Cablevision let reporters discover unaided, Dolan-controlled Cablevision revealed a 49% interest in a company that is bidding millions of dollars in an ongoing auction of Federal Communications Commission spectrum licenses.

According to the FCC, Cablevision’s satellite arm, Rainbow DBS, owns nearly one-half of DTV Norwich LLC. The controlling 51% interest is held by George S. Blumenthal Co. Blumenthal, a huge flop in the British cable-TV business, did not return a reporter’s call. Stanton Williams, one of DTV Norwich’s authorized bidders, declined to discuss any post-auction plans with Rainbow DBS.

As of early Friday afternoon, DTV Norwich zoomed ahead in the bidding against its most potent rival, a company named South.com LLC, which is 49.9%-owned by EchoStar Communications Corp.

Although South.com took an early lead when the auction began Jan. 14, DTV Norwich upped the ante by bidding $55.1 million for control of 76 licenses.

In all, the FCC is auctioning 214 licenses, which roughly equates to one license for each TV market in the country.

Cablevision spokeswoman Kim Kerns confirmed Rainbow DBS’ entry in the auction but declined to discuss future business plans.

Dolan began his migration away from cable last fall with the launch of Rainbow DBS’ Voom satellite service, a $500 million venture designed to provide consumers with a robust package of HDTV programming.

Cablevision has announced plans to spin off Voom later this year.

In the auction, Dolan-backed DTV Norwich is trying to scoop up licenses that are authorized by the FCC to provide video programming and high-speed data from terrestrial transmitters, dubbed multichannel-video-distribution and data service (MVDDS) by the FCC.

Each license is a 500-megahertz swath in the same frequency zone used by Voom, EchoStar’s Dish Network and DirecTV Inc.

A Voom-DTV Norwich combination could develop a hybrid service using the MVDDS licenses to provide local TV stations in HDTV and Voom and offer a slate of national and regional services.

For more on DTV Norwich, please see Ted Hearn’s story on page one of Monday’s edition of Multichannel News.