We held a workshop on channel sharing  this week, to explore the practical business and operational challenges facing broadcasters who may want to try this innovative way to use spectrum more efficiently. Over 200 people participated in person and over the web, making it a successful kickoff to a series of events through which we’ll invite input that will help us to implement our new incentive auction authority.
We proposed channel sharing as a way for broadcasters to contribute much-needed spectrum in connection with an incentive auction, enjoy the financial benefits of sharing in auction proceeds, and at the same time stay on the air to serve their viewers. Our panel of broadcast professionals discussed the business models that might fit with channel sharing and the practicalities of putting together a channel sharing arrangement.
The panelists, a number of whom have clients actively considering channel sharing, shared with us their insights into wide-ranging issues, including –
- the types of stations for which channel sharing would be an appropriate business decision;
- how stations would go about choosing partners;
- what kinds of provisions channel sharing agreements should contain;
- how to handle the possible termination of a channel sharing arrangement; and
- potential collusive behavior that stations negotiating channel sharing agreements might need to avoid.
While it seems accepted that the technology exits to implement channel sharing, the discussion also covered a number of technical issues about how it might be implemented.
Those attending the workshop, both in person and online, contributed insightful questions that added much to the discussion. At this point, questions were more numerous than answers, but that’s really what the workshop was about: We’re seeking input from all interested parties about what concerns they have and how we should formulate the issues as we move into the rulemaking process under the new statute. Asking the right questions about channel sharing is a first step toward providing the answers that will enable broadcasters to evaluate the value proposition it presents.
Future workshops should help us to tee up and then resolve other issues that together can lead to a successful incentive auction.