TV Auction Begins

Posted on March 31st, 2016 by

On March 29, 2016, the FCC’s TV Incentive Auction officially began as of the closing of the initial commitment window at 6 p.m. EST. The auction is technically in round one, but subsequent rounds will not begin until the clock phase of the auction, estimated for early May. The FCC’s computers are crunching station initial commitment data to see which bids to accept, which bidders remain alive for the next round and their status, and also confirming which stations didn’t participate and are subject to repacking after the auction. In the next two weeks, stations that made an initial commitment will receive a third confidential letter advising of their status. Those stations that remain eligible for round two will also find out which mock auction they will participate in, as well as when round two will commence, kicking off the clock phase of the auction.

During the clock phase, the FCC will conduct at least one and probably two rounds per day, Monday through Friday. Bidders will find out their status electronically after each round. There are six different statuses that are possible for clock phase participants, as follows:

(1) Bidding In The Current Round: this status applies if the station can be feasibly assigned a channel in its pre-auction band, in which case the system will offer a new reduced price offer for each of the options currently available to the station. As long as a station has this status, it will be offered lower prices and asked to submit a bid in each round.

(2) Frozen – Provisionally Winning: this status applies if the station can never be assigned a feasible channel in its pre-auction band in the current stage of the auction, in which case, for the remainder of that stage, the current price and option for the station will remain unchanged. If the final stage rule is actually met in that stage, the station will become a winning station. If it is not met, the station’s status will be updated for the next round (multiple bidding rounds can occur within a single stage of the auction; a new auction stage begins if the prior stage does not meet the final stage rule and the FCC has to lower its spectrum clearing target)

(3) Frozen – Currently Infeasible: this status is only possible for a VHF station, and will only apply if a feasible channel assignment cannot be found in the VHF station’s pre-auction band in the current round, but might be found in a later round of the current stage. The station’s option and price are frozen, and it will not be asked to specify a new bid amount for that round.

(4) Frozen – Pending Catch Up: With this status, a station’s current option and price are frozen. The station was provisionally winning in an earlier stage, but now is not because a new stage has started and the prices have been reset to a level that is higher than the station’s provisionally winning bid from the prior stage. So the station is waiting until the bid values “catch up” (i.e., fall) to the station’s last bid amount. No lower price is offered and no bid is necessary because the old bid carries forward.

(5) Exited – Voluntary: This status applies if the station’s prior round bid to drop out has been processed, or the station failed to place a bid despite its “bidding in the current round status” in the prior round. A station with this status can no longer place bids and is designated for repacking.

(6) Exited – Not Needed: A station will see this status when the auction system has determined that a feasible channel assignment in its pre-auction band will always be available. As a result, the station is no longer needed and will be designated for repacking.