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2,202 TV Stations Deemed Eligible for Auction

WASHINGTON—Some 2,202 TV stations have qualified for cold hard cash. The Federal Communications Commission has released the list of stations it deems eligible for both participation in the 2016 spectrum incentive auction and protection in the subsequent channel repack.

Among the 2,202 full-power and Class A TV stations on the list, 46 are on low VHF channel assignments, 441 are on high VHF channels and 1,712 stations are in the UHF band. The total number of stations listed is 12 more than the total count of licensed full-power and Class A TV stations as of the FCC’s March 31, 2015 count. (TV Technology has an inquiry into the FCC asking for clarification of the discrepancy. The agency’s Hossein Hashemzadeh replied after publication that, “The March count was inaccurate because of some of the existing Class A stations showing as CP off-air status whereas they should have been as licensed stations.” )

The number of qualifiers varies across designated market areas. No. 1 New York has nine; No. 2 Los Angeles has 15. Oklahoma City, at No. 44, has 13. Bend, Ore., No. 193, has five stations listed. Eugene, Ore, at No. 120, has seven, and No. 10. Houston, one of the strongest markets for broadcasting, has 10 auction-eligible stations.

Eligibility according to group ownership is difficult to determine from the list, since licenses may be registered under different holding company names. ABC, for example, has eight owned-and-operated stations. All are on the list, but by different iterations of ABC: ABC, Inc.; ABC Holding Co.; American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.; KFSN Television, LLC., etc. The same goes for Sinclair Broadcast Group, which had 161 TV stations.

Among groups that have indicated interest in selling, ION Media has 58 stations associated with the company name. ION was one of three groups that dispatched executives to meet with the FCC in February and discuss the auction. Tribune and Fox also participated, seeking, among other things, a spectrum clearing target of 126 MHz, reasoning that demand will drive up prices. Fox has a total of 28 O&Os; 22 of which are listed as Fox Television Stations. Trib had 42 stations; 15 are listed under ownership with “Tribune” in the name.

OTA Broadcasting, Michael Dell’s holding company previously identified by SNL Kagan as a “spectrum aggregator” positioning for the auction, has 21 TV stations on the list.

Among station groups with executives who have indicated they would like to stay in the broadcast business, Nexstar Broadcasting of Irving, Texas, has 73 TV stations on the list. Nexstar spent $33 million on programmatic ad firm Yashi earlier this year, and started adopting bonded cellular technology for electronic newsgathering.

All listed TV stations must file a pre-auction form by July 9, 2015. David Oxenford of Wilkinson Barker Knauer, LLP has more on this Pre-Auction Technical Certification Form at Broadcast Law Blog, as does Lauren Lynch Flick of Pillsbury at CommLawCenter.