Comcast EVP David Cohen says the bigger-than-expected results of the FCC’s AWS spectrum auction has NBCU — among many other broadcasters — considering participating in the upcoming incentive auction. However, that interest might be mitigated by uncertainty over how much spectrum will be needed to make a strong push to mobile devices.
David Cohen, executive vice president of Comcast, owner of NBCUniversal, suggests that when the FCC holds its auction to buy TV spectrum next year, the NBC and Telemundo stations may be among the sellers.
“That’s a matter of continuing evaluation,” he said last night during the Q&A that followed his speech at the University of North Carolina. The speech was part of the annual Wade Hargrove Media Law & Policy Colloquium.
“All the broadcasters are looking at [the auction],” he said. Like CBS and Fox, “NBC has an interest in the situation.”
The game changer was the auction of AWS spectrum that closed earlier this year and yielded $45 billion, far more than had been anticipated, he said. “The economic value that was attributed to the AWS spectrum in the auction has caused everyone, including NBCUniversal, to go back to the drawing board and say: ‘If spectrum is really worth six to 10 times as much as we thought it was … we ought to take a look at it again.’ ”
But selling spectrum would come with an opportunity cost, he said.
Even though broadcasters today reach only “6%, 8%, 12%” of their viewers directly with their over-the-air signals, he said, some want to hang on to their spectrum so that can also broadcast to mobile devices.
“Because technology moves so quickly there has been some sense among many in the broadcast industry that they can’t afford to give up the spectrum because they might lose an opportunity to do something … in the future.”