The FCC's auction of 122 FM radio licenses came to a close last week with nearly a third of the licenses -- 37 to be precise -- remaining unsold at the closing hammer. The outcome of the auction, which raised a net total of just $5.25 million on the sale of 85 licenses, may be seen by some as but the latest example of the current state of the radio industry. As others have noted , the auction did not attract much attention from the beginning, with many of the qualified bidders depositing only small amounts of money, signaling that interest in the slate of licenses was not very keen.
Admittedly, the large number of unsold licenses and the small total earnings for the 85 licenses that did sell is a reflection of the fact that many of the licenses being offered were smaller facilities in less populated areas, however, the auction results also reflect that it is a buyer's market these days. The fact that 37 licenses went unsold meant that not a single bidder was willing to pay even the opening bid amounts for over three dozen of the licenses. In the current marketplace, the FCC's opening price for these licenses was simply thought to be too high. Further, of the 85 licenses that did sell, 33 of them were virtually uncontested, with the winning bid being submitted in the first, second, or third round. Only a handful of the licenses saw active bidding throughout the auction.
For those that succeeded in picking up a station in the auction, the 20% down payment is due by October 2, with the final payment and long form applications due by October 19, 2009. A copy of the FCC's closing Public Notice is available here. And for now, the unsold licenses will remain with the FCC to be re-auctioned at some point in the future, hopefully to a better result.