At least twice as many TV stations are taking their money and going off the air in the wake of the FCC’s broadcast incentive auction and repack. The repack is a daunting reconfiguration of the TV band that will take years and cost more than $1 billion.
According to an FCC source, at last count, 18 TV stations had turned in their licenses, up from the 12 who definitely signaled they were taking their incentive auction payouts and going off the air. But of those 18, only six are among the 12 that said they were going off the air initially, which means a dozen stations that initially signaled they would be sharing with another station after the auction won’t be doing so after all.
So, when the other six stations that did say they were going off turn in their licenses — which they must do by Oct. 25 — that will make a total of 24 stations, double the number that initially indicated they would go dark.
That number could increase again if others intending to share fail to strike a deal or change their plans.
The FCC did not require TV stations originally opting to share to actually do so. They were bidding to move off their spectrum, so whether they kept the license and shared with another station in the market or turned in the license was up to them.
The final number of stations that will ultimately go off the air due to the auction remains a moving target. So far, of the 145 stations taking payouts in the auction, 133 checked the box indicating they planned to stay on the air through channel sharing, which left 12 stations turning in their licenses. That dozen must turn in their licenses by Oct. 25; by that date, there will be 24 returned licenses.
The remaining 88 channel sharers have until Jan. 23, 2018 to start sharing or go off the air, although they could get extensions of that date up to six months (through next July 22). Though it is not clear how many of those might also turn in their licenses, 33 have already filed construction permits, signaling at least that many will be sharing.