Forty years ago, Boston’s “Don’t Look Back” had just left the top of the Billboard charts. The chart topping hit featured lead singer Brad Delp singing that the past was “holding me back” and “far away and left behind.”
The FCC, however, is not taking Boston’s advice. In the Incentive Auction Report and Order, the Commission committed to keeping information about unsuccessful bids in the reverse auction confidential for a period of two years following the close of the incentive auction. Now, just over two years after the official end of the Incentive Auction, the Incentive Auction Task Force released detailed bidding data for the broadcast side of the auction. The information is available on the FCC’s Public Reporting System, which can be found at https://auctiondata.fcc.gov/public/projects/1000.
As you may recall, the Commission conducted the auction in stages. Stage 1 featured a reverse auction clearing target of 126 MHz and lasted 52 rounds. When the revenues generated in the forward auction did not exceed the total clearing cost, however, the auction proceeded to three additional stages, with Stage 4 featuring a clearing target of 84 MHz. Under the clock auction format, the FCC “froze” stations bids when it did not have an available channel to accommodate those stations in the repack. A station whose bid froze in an earlier stage could unfreeze in a subsequent stage as the demand decreased. Furthermore, VHF stations could freeze and unfreeze during a stage as demand from UHF stations to move to VHF shifted.
While we will not attempt to recreate every detail of the auction (although we have no doubt some will try), our initial review of the new reverse auction data led to some interesting observations: