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More FCC Repack Bucks Expected Early Next Week

Look for the FCC, as early as Monday morning, to release the second round of repack funding for broadcasters, which will likely mean most of the remaining $750 million in Congress' initial repack fund.

That should be good news for broadcasters, who have argued the FCC needed to free up most of the money.

The FCC signaled back in February that it was coming about this time, and FCC chairman Ajit Pai told an NAB audience that it would be coming very soon, and that it would be larger than originally expected.

That is thanks to Congress' allocation of an additional $1 billion, if and as needed, with $600 million of that available in 2018, including $350 million of that for the full power and Class A stations that will be getting that second tranche. LPTVS, translators and FMs are also getting money in the new $1 billion, but the FCC has not come up with a process for that disbursement yet.

Related: Rep. Walden Says $3 Billion Needed for Repack

The commission is expected next week to allocate almost all of the remaining $750 million from the original $1.75 billion set aside by Congress for the post-incentive auction repack of TV stations into their reduced spectrum allocation, leaving only a small percentage for trueing up those payments--they are based on broadcaster estimates that are something of a moving target.

It can't dip into the extra $1 billion until it certifies it will be needed, which would come if that true-up exceeds the $1.75 billion, as it is expected to by virtually everyone including the FCC.

The FCC got initial broadcaster estimates back in July 2017 totaling $2.115 billion, but that was before all those eligible for the money had weighed in, so it signaled it expected the number to go up. It did, to $2.139 billion in October, after which the FCC reviewed those estimates, which brought it down to $1.864 billion, but with the FCC expecting that to tick up again once broadcasters are actually moving.

In October, the FCC handed out an initial tranche of $1 billion (about 52% of what commercial broadcasters asked for, and 60% for noncommercial stations). That was to cover initial costs, with the rest coming in a further tranche, or tranches.

Most of the repack money goes to broadcasters, though MVPDs are getting some for re-tuning headends to pick up the new channel moves.