NAB Outlines Auction Options

NAB appears to be fully engaged in helping stations determine what their best option is in the upcoming broadcast incentive auction.

After some major members made it clear they had a financial duty to explore those options, NAB has been on board with broadening its focus to embrace those members, while still arguing that there is plenty of life left in the business for those who want to stay and advocating for an auction framework that does not marginalize broadcast signals.

The most recent example of that pivot toward the auction came Wednesday, with the release of a new broadcasters resource that compiles FCC data into a market-by-market look at the estimated opening bid and high-end price estimates for broadcaster spectrum and the number of stations the FCC may need to volunteer spectrum in each market.

"For example," says NAB, "there are some markets where the FCC may need to accept bids from more than half of the stations in the market. In other markets, the FCC may need to accept only a single bid, or may not need to accept any bids at all, depending on the megahertz target and the outcomes in neighboring areas."

Among the options for broadcasters is giving up spectrum and getting out of the business, giving up spectrum and sharing a channel — which will also provide a payout to the broadcaster who shares that channel — and moving from a UHF channel to a higher, or low, VHF channel.

That last option is said to be getting serious consideration by a number of broadcasters, particularly given that there is no loss of spectrum and must-carry rights on cable operators, on which the majority of TV stations are viewed. That last option is at a reduced price from the clearing options, but still could be tens or even hundreds of millions in the largest markets.

It also provides a look at how many stations in each market the FCC may need to participate to reach its target — the low end FCC target is 84 MHz — and a first look at the number of volunteer stations the FCC may need to participate in each market to repurpose targeted amounts of spectrum.

"NAB is committed to being the most comprehensive and accurate resource for all television broadcasters interested in how the incentive auction may affect them, regardless of whether or not they intend to participate," NAB president Gordon Smith said in a statement. "We look forward to continuing to work with the FCC to ensure a successful auction for all stakeholders."

The FCC is also taking its pitch to stations, including opening bid and high-end estimates, via a road show series of seminars that began last week in Philadelphia and New York and are slated to continue for several months.

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.