After more than a year the FCC’s broadcast incentive auction has ended. The auction’s purpose was to clear spectrum currently used by TV stations for wireless internet use. I won’t bore you with the confusing details but as it stands right now, any station owner had one of three choices – do nothing, get some money and accept a new TV channel selected by the FCC, or get the most money by giving up your station’s physical spectrum license. Owners who elect the death option can reincarnate into the wireless signal of another station a.k.a. channel sharing.
WXEL owner South Florida PBS, Inc. decided to go that route. For exactly $4,696,299 they will give up the right to have a physical 6Mhz slice of spectrum, go off-air, and would share a channel with another broadcaster, they’ve already been doing that for some time now.
In the Miami-Fort Lauderdale market the owners of three Class A low-power TV stations decided to take the money and run
WDLP-CD off-air for $3,673,224
WIMP-CD off-air for $3,138,184
WLPH-CD off-air for $3,994,492
WDLP-CD, affiliated with Azteca America and owned by Mapale LLC will go off-air completely. WIMP-CD will channel share with another station. WLPH-CD is also staying dark. The entity wasn’t broadcasting a signal out ever since its previous owner sold it in 2014 to an FCC auction speculator for about $5 million. Before that WLPH was the translator for WHDT in Miami.
WFGC, a religious broadcaster in Palm Beach opted to move to a high-VHF physical channel in exchange for $3,359,483 from the FCC.
While getting a $3-$4 million payoff is nothing to complain about, TV station owners received a far, far cry – a 1.368% bury your head in a pillow and scream kind of cry – from what the original Move Off-Air Opening Price the FCC estimated before the auction started in January 2016.
At that time almost every Miami and Palm Beach station got a 9-figure estimate if they opted to go dark. WXEL-TV had a Move Off-Air Opening Price of $343,056,600, WLPH at $291,790,800, WIMP-CD $229,239,000 and WDLP-CD $268,323,300. And those were slated to go up because the assumption was wireless carriers will show up with sacks of money. That didn’t happen.
But all is not terrible in the aftermath of the auction. Unlike South Florida, station owners elsewhere are walking away screaming with pockets full of money.
WSVN owner Ed Ansin will receive $162,108,481 to put the kibosh on WLVI in Boston. That station will move on to WHDH’s frequency.
And in what is the biggest dough grab of them all, WWTO-TV the Trinity Christian Broadcasting station in Chicago, will receive $304,250,040 to go off-air. The most for a single station out of any broadcaster participating in the auction. Now its owners can buy another private jet and afford channel sharing with some other entity. Praise Jesus!
Perhaps somewhat of a surprise, the NBC flagship station in New York City, WNBC, will also relinquish its physical spectrum channel. NBC is pocketing a cool $214,023,017 for that and moving the station to another airwave slot.