This is a big deal in Washington: The FCC desperately wants TV station owners to give up some of the airwave spectrum they use, so it can be redeployed for wireless broadband. The powerful National Association of Broadcasters is pushing back, skeptical that stations will be pressured to sell. But a report this morning from RBC Capital Markets analyst David Bank says it would be smart business for a lot of independently owned stations to go ahead and make a deal with the feds. He found several cases where stations recently were sold for less than the owner could have received by accepting just 25% of what wireless providers are paying for spectrum. That means it’s possible “these stations could see their values rise, based solely on the value of their spectrum.” Major network owners including CBS, News Corp, and Disney also could benefit if they agree to auction off some of the airwaves they use — but the value might not be worth the risk just yet. Bank figures that CBS’ share price would rise 1.6% if it sold half of its spectrum and received half of what wireless providers likely would be willing to pay. The impact would be virtually negligible at the larger companies. Under the same scenario, News Corp stock would only rise 0.5%, and there’d be no change for Disney. But Bank says TV station owners may be able to cut better deals for themselves as wireless companies become more desperate for spectrum — and broadcasters’ need for the airwaves diminishes. “With approximately 85% coverage of pay-TV among US TV households, and broadcast TV identities well established, an actual broadcast signal will likely be of questionable strategic advantage,” Bank says.
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