Fox TV Plans to Sell Airwaves for Smartphones at U.S. Auction

  • Fox CFO Nallen says company wants to get value for stations
  • Auction next year a chance to sell and buy airwaves for mobile

Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox Inc. intends to sell TV-station airwaves at a U.S. government auction next year, boosting the prospects for a sale designed to funnel choice frequencies to mobile phone providers.

The Fox stations will continue to broadcast but on other frequencies approved by U.S. regulators and “we still will continue to have a thriving local TV business,” Fox Chief Financial Officer John Nallen said Wednesday.

“We plan to be active,” Nallen said at a Bank of America Merrill Lynch conference in Beverly Hills, California. “We have some beachfront property we should get some value for.”

The sale, planned for 2016, will allocate airwaves held by broadcasters for re-sale to wireless providers such as AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc., which need the frequencies to meet soaring demand from users of smartphones, tablets and other wireless devices.

Tom Wheeler, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission that will conduct the auction, has been urging broadcasters to voluntarily give up airwaves so the auction can switch more frequencies from TV to mobile uses.

Other broadcasters have expressed interest in participating in the auction, Wheeler said Wednesday during remarks in Las Vegas to a convention by CTIA-The Wireless Association, a mobile trade group. He didn’t offer details.

Spectrum Sharing

Fox has 28 stations in 17 markets including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco, Washington and Houston, according to the company’s website. The company owns two stations in 11 cities, according to a regulatory filing.

The FCC says stations can give up their airwaves and share frequencies with another station.

“We are hopeful a broad range of broadcasters will participate in the auction and allow the marketplace to get the spectrum needed to meet Americans’ demand for mobile-first lives,” said Scott Bergmann, vice president, regulatory affairs at CTIA.

The auction will sell frequencies carrying signals that travel far and penetrate buildings. TV stations that give up airwaves will get a cut of auction proceeds.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the net proceeds will probably be between $10 billion and $40 billion, with an expected value of $25 billion, the middle of that range.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE