CCW 2014

Burgess Has Doubts About Spectrum Auction

Ion Media CEO Brandon Burgess says while his company is looking at the pros and cons of selling some spectrum, he’s doubtful it will and, what’s more, he questions whether the auction, planned for 2016, will ever take place.

Like other broadcasters, Ion Media CEO Brandon Burgess says his TV station group is considering selling spectrum in the FCC’s incentive auction planned for 2016. But he doubts that the auction will ever take place.

“I would be on the side of betting on operating spectrum as opposed to selling it,” he said during the opening session of the NAB’s CCW–SATCON conference in New York today.

However, he said, every public or semi-public company “has to look at the numbers” — how much they can make by selling. As envisioned by the FCC, the incentive auction would buy TV spectrum from broadcasters, mostly in major markets, and then turn around and sell it to wireless broadband providers.

Burgess said he is skeptical about the FCC’s ability to “pull together an effective auction.”

“There are a lot of supply-side questions,” he said. “I think there is a greater chance the auction will not be as robust and, therefore, not as interesting to [broadcasters] who have all sorts of ideas for linear and nonlinear uses.”

Burgess said there is “a lot of enthusiasm” among broadcasters for a new “flex-use” broadcast standard that will give broadcasters more “ambitious ways to play in the broadcasting space.”


Burgess was referring to the ATSC 3.0 standard now under development by the Advanced Television Systems Committee. Like the spectrum auction, the standard is due in 2016.

Read more CCW-SATCON coverage here.

Comments (13)

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Ellen Samrock says:

November 12, 2014 at 5:58 pm

“…not as interesting to [broadcasters] who have all sorts of ideas for linear and nonlinear uses.” That’s the ticket, Brandon. Keep thinking that way. Selling out and surrendering to the FCC and the Obama government’s agenda is not a future strategy for broadcasters. That’s some other industry’s future strategy. Terrestrial television can confidently look ahead to offering a host of innovative new services under ATSC 3.0. But, for now, we need to fight this incentive auction by every legal means available.

    Keith ONeal says:

    November 12, 2014 at 10:27 pm

    Right On!

Keith ONeal says:

November 12, 2014 at 10:26 pm

I’ve always said that the Spectrum auction is a stupid idea; cancel the auction now!

Ben Gao says:

November 13, 2014 at 3:57 pm

No auction. One of the few things in life that are free: advertiser-supported Over The Air HDTV. Why don’t cell companies sell spots and make data free? Why don’t they build-out their systems with all the SPECTRUM that they are HOGGING-UP and SITTING-ON and NOT USING yet? NO AUCTION required. Just say “NO”.

Robert Vincent says:

November 13, 2014 at 10:21 pm

Burgess, who could not get a $150,000 loan to put in fancy leather furniture in his NYC corporate penthouse because ION’s credit had ran out, is a stakeholder in ION and stands to lose a lot, including his job. If ION’s board accepts the near $100M to become a cable network, I’m sure they would give Burgess the boot. Now do give him credit getting ION through its bankruptcy a few years ago. Then he realized some of his regional managers were corrupt and got rid of them. Then he shed around $2.4M in salaries by realizing that traffic managers at television stations where there was no sales and about 30 minutes of traffic work was wasteful at best. So he has not done that bad in his leadership at The “(EYE)” or ION. But nearly if not all of his stations are on a UHF assignment as per the old PAX engineering structure. So it will cost ION a bundle to install new transmission infrastructure at his 60 locations. It would be more feasible to go dish, cable, and streaming. Too bad the courts just eliminated one of the best streaming pipelines ever, Aereo. A lot of former broadcasters may wind up regretting that decision in the end when they also go off air for the last time after the auction is completely over.

    Wagner Pereira says:

    November 15, 2014 at 3:54 am

    Considering the low number of subs to Aereo, to call them one of the best streaming pipelines ever is ridiculous. They were never put to any test.

Patrick Burns says:

November 14, 2014 at 5:46 pm

The auction seems on the bubble of reality. No one refers to the German auction 5 or 6 years back that pulled in only 30% of projected money. The algorithm guys will be smart to squeeze more data thru what is in place. They will be rich heroes.

The Flex use people are onto some thing. I have 19.38 mbits like all othet TV sticks. I do 8 channels in SD, I would give uo half of my channels in a hearbeat for a staedy rev stream. Invest in a better Multiplexer & do 5 channels & maybe news. This is the future of the net & TV , the FCC has been seduced by Verizon, AT&T etc.

The TV facilities are in place & can get flex going way faster that the old model.

Wheeler will be shown the door by the Republicans & hopefully we will get a REAL FCC chief not a stooge for the
big telcoms & Google !!!

    Keith ONeal says:

    November 14, 2014 at 8:31 pm

    1) “The auction seems on the bubble of reality.” REALLY? Obviously you must not have noticed that the auction has been delayed (for the second time) until some time (date not mentioned) in 2016!
    2) As for the German auction, you need to know that ALL Radio and Television in Germany is STATE-RUN. That’s right, their 2 national broadcasters (ARD and ZDF) and their regional ‘Third Channels’ are all owned and operated by the German Government.
    3) The GOP controlled 2015 Congress will find a way to get rid of Wheeler, and when he’s toast, it’s bye-bye Spectrum Auction!

    Wagner Pereira says:

    November 16, 2014 at 9:53 pm

    Wrong again. NRJ is not owned or run by the State in Germany.

Wagner Pereira says:

November 15, 2014 at 3:59 am

One can do quite a bit of damage in a little over 2 years.

Tim Darnell says:

November 16, 2014 at 7:00 pm

I’m not sure why there is so much animosity against the auction. It is voluntary. No broadcaster is forced to participate.

    Keith ONeal says:

    November 16, 2014 at 8:36 pm

    The animosity is there because it’s a stupid idea in the first place. I’ll explain it this way: Once upon a time, circa the 1960s, there used to be channels 2 to 13 for VHF, and channels 14 to 83 for UHF. Sometime, either in the late 1970s or early 1980s, UHF channels 70 to 83 were taken off of television service, and stations that had those channels either were reassigned another channel, or went dark. Canada and Mexico followed suit. Then, in 2009, the Digital Transition arrived, and the FCC used that as an excuse to take channels 52 to 69 out of television service. For the majority of TV stations, the channel number they mention is their PSIP number (formerly analog channel number), and not the actual channel they broadcast on. Once again, Canada and Mexico followed suit. So now, what we have left is VHF channels 2 to 13, and UHF channels 14 to 51. The FCC’s idea for this auction is to eliminate channels 38 to 51, leaving us with VHF channels 2 to 13, and UHF channels 14 to 36 (channel 37 has NEVER been used for television). Bad idea, very bad idea. Before the transition, station broadcasting on VHF had a better range, and could reach more people than the stations broadcasting on UHF. Now, with Digital, the opposite had happened. UHF stations has the better reach now. I live in a major city in Florida, and I cannot receive the one station in this market that is actually broadcasting on a VHF channel (channel 11) over the air, so I had to resort to cable to get my stations.

    Wagner Pereira says:

    November 16, 2014 at 9:58 pm

    Amazing someone could post so many words and not answer the question, that was repeated in the first sentence of his post and simply reciting things that have already happened.