Repack Clock is Ticking and An Expensive Move For Broadcasters Awaits

Now that the 39-month TV station repack timeline has begun, what kinds of equipment will be eligible for reimbursement? The deadline for stations to submit their estimated repack expenses to the FCC is July 12. Those include engineering, legal, equipment, installation, and other costs the FCC deems reasonable to accomplish a required channel change. The FCC has shed a little more light on equipment approximations in its Catalog of Potential Expenses and Estimated Costs.

The agency asked Widelity to reflect the current pricing for the equipment and services that repacked broadcasters may need to purchase to facilitate the moves to their new channel assignments, and the current pricing for equipment and services that MVPDs may need to purchase to continue to carry broadcasters. The report was produced August 2016.

Tower mapping for existing structures without sufficient documentation may run between $16,000 to $25,000, according to the report. It estimates minor tower reinforcement and modifications at between $100,000 to $150,000, between $300,000 to $400,000 for major work and $500,000 to $1 million for serious work.

New towers, between 1000’ and 1500’ without elevator, could cost $2,500 per foot and about $3,000 per foot for structures between 1500’ and 2000’ without elevator. Costs “may be higher” for new towers with difficult site or soil conditions and towers with an elevator.

Tower rigging including equipment removal and installation of antennas or transmission lines are estimated to start at $60,000 for a tower less than 500’ and up to $400,000 for a tower greater than 500’ that also includes candelabras and/or stacked antennas.

Moving to a new channel requires new antennas. Cost estimates for UHF and high VHF antennas vary widely from between $6,000 for a Class A UHF lower power side mount broadband panel (multiple channel array – example 4 panel complete array) to more than $1 million for a UHF high power top mount (200-1000 kW) four station broadband panel antenna that is elliptically or circularly polarized.

Depending on the new channel assignment a station may be able to re-tune its transmitter rather than replacing it — unless total replacement costs less. A new exciter could be around $20,000 and a new mask filter, required for any channel change ranges from $2,800 to $95,000, according to the report.

The price of a new transmitter includes installation, mask filter, and proof of performance testing. Estimates range from $40,000 for a UHF air cooled solid state transmitter (1 – 2.5 kW) to $2.5 million for a UHF liquid cooled solid state transmitter (86.8 – 106 kW).

April 17, 2017

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