Spectrum Auction Keeps On Keeping On

"And the bid goes on," as Sonny and/or Cher might have said. Stage 4 of the forward portion of the FCC's spectrum incentive auction will continue to round seven, which starts at 2 p.m. Tuesday (Jan. 24).

The bid total in round 6 of stage 4 increased by a little over 26 million (from $18,413,831,687 to $18,440,023,987 ) as demand continued to exceed supply in smaller markets.

Broadcasters' payout from the auction has already been determined at $10 billion and change for 84 MHz they gave up in stage four of the reverse portion of the auction. The forward auction bidders continue to bid on the 70 MHz that was offered up (the 84 MHz minus 14 MHz for buffer bands).

The auction will close after this forward auction stage because both key benchmarks--covering broadcasters asking price plus $1.9 billion in auction and repacking costs and a set spectrum floor price in the top 40 markets--have been met (what was referred to as the "final stage rule").

But the auction will continue until demand does not exceed supply in any of the 416 markets. Demand continues to exceed supply in  smaller markets including Eugene, Ore.; South Bend, Ind.; Dayton, Ohio; Redding, Calif.; Harrisonburg, Va., and many others.

That means the auction could take another several days or even weeks, while the price may only tick up slight with each round given that the bid prices in some of those markets are only in the five or six figures.

After the main auction closes, there will be a second auction among the winners for specific frequencies. The current auction is only to win generic blocks of 10 MHz, 5 uplink and five downlink, with seven blocks available in each market.

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.