Forward Thinkers Prep for Spectrum Auction

Washington — An initial combing of the list of applicants in the forward portion of the Federal Communications Commission’s upcoming broadcast spectrum auction — which officially launches this week — shows it is clearly not just for wireless companies and venture capitalists.

Companies with cable and broadcast interests are on the buy side of the equation as well.

The list is only of applicants, not necessarily of those who will bid or of those who’ll win spectrum if they do. But no one absent from that list will have a chance to participate.

Comcast had already signaled it would take part, and was joined by several others with cable-network or programming interests. Mediacom Communications chairman and CEO Rocco Commisso is an applicant under Rolling Hills Entertainment. John Malone and Liberty Media are there, too, though a Liberty spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal it would not be bidding.

Sinclair Broadcast Group, which recently bought Tennis Channel and owns regional cable news network NewsChannel 8 in Washington, D.C., also is on the list.

Given Comcast’s NBCUniversal TV-station holdings, including some duopolies, and Sinclair’s broadcast-TV holdings — it’s the largest station group in the country, and also has some duopolies — those two could potentially be applicants to buy and sell.

The FCC, per statute, is not releasing the names of TVstation owners who have applied to potentially give up spectrum. But Sinclair, for one, has long said it could put some spectrum into play.

If so, it might realize several billion dollars in proceeds if it won.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.