FCC Incentive Auction Goes In Reverse, Again


And like that, poof, it’s gone.

As expected, the third stage of the FCC’s Forward Auction began this morning.

The first round of bidding saw a two-hour round at 10 a.m. Eastern.

A second two-hour round, set for 2 p.m. Eastern, has been scrubbed — as has all further bidding in Stage 3.

That’s because bidders weren’t willing to plunk down more than $477 million for a chunk of spectrum in New York, nor were they interested in a slice of spectrum in Los Angeles going for a clock price of $407,914,000, with an opening round price of $388,489,000.

The result of Stage 3 bidding in the FCC Forward Auction:  $19,676,240,520.

In official FCC-speak, this means bidding in the forward auction has concluded for Stage 3 without meeting the final stage rule and without meeting the conditions to trigger an extended round.

In Capitol Hill coffee break-speak, the Broadcast Spectrum Incentive Auction could go to a fifth, or sixth, or seventh stage.

Dan Hays, principal at PwC Strategy&, fears worse. As previously reported by RBR + TVBR, he believes the large gap between the forward and reverse auctions could persist.

“This could perhaps be an early indicator of a potential eventual failure to successfully complete the auction altogether,” he warned.

How about was bidding in Round 1 of Stage 3 of the Forward Auction?

One would have to scroll down to Raleigh, N.C., to see any bidding activity of significance, with a bid of $9.43 million seen for spectrum in the market.

Louisville, Ky., and Buffalo, N.Y. also saw bids, as did Richmond, Va.

But these markets are relative bargains compared to the top DMAs where bidding has stalled.

With that, the incentive auction will continue with Stage 4 at a lower clearing target.

The FCC expects to release a public notice on Friday (12/9) with details about the next stage, including the clearing target for Stage 4, and the time and date when bidding in this next stage of what could be several more in the reverse auction will begin.

That said, the FCC anticipates that bidding in Stage 4 of the reverse auction will begin next Tuesday, Dec. 13.

Auction results and access to the Auction System Access to the Auction System for Stage 3 were made available through 5 p.m. Eastern on Monday (12/5).

The shift to Stage 4 generated a strong response from veteran television consultant and the Executive Director of the now-disbanded Expanding Opportunities For Broadcasters Coalition, Preston Padden.

“This is not an auction,” said Padden. “It is a joke and an abuse of the broadcasters, the FCC and the public who will be put through a disruptive repacking process that increasingly looks unjustified.  The question is why the carriers lobbied so hard for a statute to authorize an auction of spectrum they don’t want.  The carriers now have twice walked away from blocks of spectrum they told Congress was ‘vital’ and for which they predicted bidding as high as $48 billion.”

NAB President/CEO Gordon Smith added, “The results of the latest round of the TV auction leave us scratching our heads, given the decade-long refrain of a spectrum crunch. We look forward to the next round.”

As RBR + TVBR reported on Friday (12/2), Stage 3 of the FCC’s reverse auction concluded Dec. 1 at 3:30 p.m., eliminating the need for two further hour-long bidding sessions designed to ensure a timely end to this stage of the broadcast incentive spectrum auction.

Bidding concluded with a new clearing cost of exactly $40,313,164,425.

The Stage 3 Forward Auction clearing target was 108 MHz, representing 80 MHz of licensed spectrum.

— Adam R Jacobson


  1. You TV people got SO punked… Wireless/broadband told you that you could make a fortune from them by selling off your stations because they would bid high. You thought you’d walk away with bushels of cash because they said you would. Now that it comes time for them to actually plunk down the money they said they would, however, they’re not. If it weren’t for the fact that my TV viewing experience in the future is probably going to suffer, I’d be laughing my ass off at you suckers.

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