TV Channel Shares Take Effect

ROCHESTER, N.Y.—For over-the-air viewers in several big markets, this was the week that the first serious visible effects of the FCC’s spectrum auction and repack are beginning to be visible.

On Tuesday morning, Sunbeam turned off the Needham transmitter of WLVI (Channel 56/RF 41) for the last time. The CW affiliate began broadcasting on its new RF 42 home late last week, sharing the spectrum there with independent sister station WHDH (Channel 7) and presenting Boston viewers with a temporary lineup of two “56.1” services with the CW and two “56.2”s with the Buzzr game-show channel.

Sunbeam took in $162.1 million from the FCC’s spectrum auction for WLVI’s former 6 MHz chunk of UHF, in what would look like a slam-dunk win that allows owner Ed Ansin to pocket as much cash as the entire station was likely worthand at the same time keep operating the station in a way that will be nearly transparent to viewers. (One analogy used by our engineering colleague Doug Smith, which we’ll embellish a bit: if someone offered you $250,000 for your house, but you could still keep living in the house just as it was, wouldn’t you take it? And in this case, the appropriate analogy would be that not even the house number out front would change, just the number on the tax roll at City Hall, right?)

It’s still not clear what will become of WLVI’s space at the Needham candelabra tower; Sunbeam was renting space there, but it owns the WHDH-TV tower down the road where WHDH-TV and WLVI’s shared broadcast now originates. (For now, only Fox affiliate WFXT will be broadcasting a full-power TV signal from the candelabra, which had been built back in the early 1970s for WLVI, WSBK and the future WXNE/WFXT.)

In the Philadelphia market, secondary public broadcaster WYBE (Channel 35) has begun sharing spectrum with its eventual new owner, Lehigh Valley public broadcaster WLVT (Channel 39)or rather, on RF channel 9 with WLVT’s eventual channel-share partner, WBPH (Channel 60). That means most over-the-air viewers in and around Philadelphia will lose access to WYBE, but it will presumably retain its cable and satellite must-carry, which is mostly what matters, right?

In central Pennsylvania, Tribune’s WPMT (Channel 43) in York left its home on RF47 on Tuesday; it’s now channel-sharing with Harrisburg public broadcaster WITF (Channel 33) on RF36, putting more signal into Harrisburg at the expense of some of its former coverage area to the south.

In New York City, Univision’s WXTV (Channel 41) sold off its spectrum on RF40 and is now sharing with sister WFUT (Channel 68) on RF30; since WXTV used to duplicate its signal on 68.2 from WFUT and WFUT on 41.2 via WXTV, there have been some changes in subchannels. Bounce TV has moved from 41.3 to 41.2, Get TV from 68.3 to 68.2 and Justice from 68.5 to 68.3. Grit (formerly 41.4) and Escape (formerly 68.4), which had been on both WXTV/WFUT and competitor WJLP (Channel 33/RF 3), are now solely on WJLP.

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For more information on the repack, visit TV Technology's repack silo.