Auction Money to Broadcasters May Result in Upgrades or Closings
More television stations are being open about how much money they anticipate seeing from the incentive auction, Inside Towersreported, including now some coming forward to say they are cashing out. Some broadcasters will divert those funds to upgrade their sites with long-overdue structural improvements. Other broadcasters are taking this opportunity to “cash out” and close their operations. In short, towers may be coming on the market as the auction money is received.
Tribune Media said it anticipates receiving about $190 million in pre-tax proceeds from the reverse auction in the second half of the year. The University of South Florida received $18.5 million for WUSF-TV in Tampa, which will go dark by the end of the year. Auction proceeds will be invested to support university initiatives. The sale involves the television station only; co-owned FMs WUSF and WSMR will remain on-air.
Central Michigan University said it sold its Flint station, WCMZ(TV), for $14 million. The licensee said its other four television and eight radio stations will remain on-air. The WCMZ facility does include a tower; broadcasting from that tower will end in about three months, according to CMU.
Pittsburgh public TV outlet WQED will receive $9.9 million from the sale of its spectrum, enough to completely retire its long-term debt of about $6 million with a few million to spare. In exchange for the payout, WQED will move to a lower VHF frequency, likely in two to three years. The station will use some $1.5 million for transaction costs and equipment related to the move.
The Pittsburgh-Post Gazette quotes an FCC official as saying the move opens up seven new license blocks in that city; each one is likely to be sold to wireless bidders for some $16.4 million.