Future of OTA...smart people, explain it to me

There is going to be a reverse auction happening in the coming months. Stations will be offered 890k (in NYC) and lower elsewhere to sell their spectrum. They will be encouraged to move to VHF. Do you think small stations will get out of the biz? Do you think many would move to the low VHF which would harder to pick up? And lastly, my favorites, the subchannels, will there be fewer?

It’s a pretty bizarre thing, in my opinion. Sure, there will be less stations, as this auction is primarily setup to sell their spectrum to wireless providers.
I don’t imagine that many of the stations that take this money will re-surface on low VHF (few of even this dedicated OTA crowd can receive without new antennas).
Here is the FCC’s “learning” page about the auction:

I really don’t understand why this is considered a reverse auction, as it seems to me there is more demand for spectrum than is available…so the seller would still be in the drivers seat with buyers competing to win spectrum (as in any standard “foward auction”)…but the FCC does clearly call this a reverse auction (where the buyers are in the drivers seat and sellers compete by lowering prices to obtain buyers).

The money being offered is enormous! Some stations will take the money and run. Projected sums in the Atlanta auction are in the range of hundreds of millions of dollars. If a station can get $300 million, the owner may take that and cease operations.

There is a website that has the projected opening bids for the Atlanta spectrum and they are all in the $300 million range. The bids will be revealed this spring by the FCC.

Stations will also be offered financial help to relocate their frequencies to VHF (lo or hi). Not all UHF stations are in the range to be auctioned. Only one of the major Atlanta stations falls into the auction spectrum.

I expect that in the Atlanta area, all majors will stay in existence and perhaps 20% of the minors will cease. My projection is that the Atlanta OTA will be about 80% of what it currently is so not a big hit. Some stations selling their frequency may simply “rent” a sub-channel through an existing station. MeTV already does this using an ABC sub-channel in the Atlanta area.

This process is also known as the “channel repack.” Will happen in BOTH Canada and the US so no country is immune to this process.

PS I knew I should have kept that honker of a VHF Radio Shack antenna. Oh well, if I need lo VHF, I’ll build a loop antenna for lo VHF (manageable).

Repacking will have a frequency holder selling and sharing the frequency of another frequency holder. And if it’s a major network they usually have sub-channels. And since there is not enough spectrum for both major channels and all the sub-channels, the sub-channels either go away or have to find a new home.

PS I knew I should have kept that honker of a VHF Radio Shack antenna. Oh well, if I need lo VHF, I’ll build a loop antenna for lo VHF (manageable).

I would not mind if they moved to the low VHF. I have the antenna for it. If they could increase the kilowatts would be great. Channel 7 runs at 98kw (Austin) and channel 12 at 65kw (San Antonio). UHF usually are 500 to 1000kw.

The auction appears to have channels 35 and above going to the cell companies. In Austin CBS & CW and San Antonio CBS and NBC have to switch.

Yep, it’s the upper portion of the UHF spectrum. And they’re doing this for eventual mobile video delivery services by cell companies.

Does this mean OTA is going away? Just when I cut the cable.

No. The effect is to “repack” the channels into a narrower spectrum of frequencies. It only affects those stations above real channel 35 (up to 51). Some will relocate to lower VHF frequencies or piggyback on available sub-channels.

Something like this has already occurred twice in history. First when UHF for OTA was redefined downwards from channel 83 to 69. Then from 69 to 51 (in the digital cutover).

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