Broadcast Buzz

January 2019 Edition

The Latest Updates

Repack

American Tower Repack Team Is Helping Customers Meet FCC Milestones

Since the results of the broadcast spectrum incentive auction were announced by the FCC on April 13, 2017, nearly 1,000 full-power and Class A TV stations have notified the FCC (within the 90-day timeframe) of their channel-transition plan. These stations will be completing their new-channel move between November 30, 2018 and July 3, 2020 based on their assigned FCC Phase transition.

The repack has posed significant challenges, not only to the full-power/Class A repacked TV stations but also to the more than 1,600 low-power TV operating stations and translator stations going through displacement.*

As of December 1, 2018, American Tower has 204 repack-impacted customers on 124 sites. Our dedicated broadcast repack team has provided significant capital and internal resources to support our customers through the transition of finding new channel assignments. To date, our repack team has met each FCC incentive auction milestone and provided the following timely customer support:

  • Mapped and ran a baseline structural analysis on 97 towers in advance of the repack.
  • Issued 215 FCC 399-like forms to support customers’ 90-day CP application filings.
  • Processed over 200 repack collocation applications.
  • Created load lists and ordered over 60 structural engineering analyses.
  • Project managed and completed all 15 Phase 1 customer transitions.
  • In the process of building 14 new broadband antenna systems for main and auxiliary operations.

Our repack team is committed to providing broadcasters with the highest level of customer service. If you require any repack-related assistance, please contact atcbroadcastrepack@americantower.com or 781-926-7899.

*Source: https://www.rabbitears.info/oddsandends.php?request=displacements

Message From the Broadcast Team

Peter Starke

Peter Starke
Vice President, Broadcast

Over my 21-year tenure at American Tower, I have found planning and preparing my team for the year ahead to be one of the most challenging tasks I face year after year. I rely on my years of experience to guide me through developing a plan to tackle any known internal and external broadcast customer needs. It’s the many unknowns that can be most challenging. Natural disasters, such as wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods, continue to increase every year. Protecting, preparing, and responding remain top priorities. Whether it’s a natural disaster or another event impacting broadcaster operations, American Tower is a trusted partner who can quickly develop a plan to keep stations on air.

At the core of our 2019 planning is, of course, TV repack. Although TV repack started in earnest in 2018, with only one cutover phase, 2019 brings cutover completion dates for Phases 2 through 6. There are 114 TV stations on our sites that must shut down on their existing channel and light up on a new channel this year.

On-tower TV repack work will cause major collateral impact for all other broadcasters operating from towers requiring major TV antenna and line work. The FCC recognized the impact to FM stations staying on air during TV repack work, and they’re currently working on finalizing a reimbursement program to make funds available to help these stations. And, we can’t forget the low-power TV displacement program and release of all frozen construction permits for unbuilt low-power TV licenses. It’s also important to remember that on-tower work requires special skill sets, particularly construction on tall broadcast towers. Safety is paramount and must remain on everyone’s mind, especially when facing the pressures of meeting deadlines.

The dynamics behind all that is happening in our industry over the next few years are both challenging and exciting, and 2019 proves to be quite an eventful year for us all. Our team at American Tower is your reliable tower source. We wish you a very successful new year and look forward to working with you.

Team Member Spotlight

Jim Leifer

Jim Leifer
Senior Manager, Broadcast Operations

Jim Leifer is highly regarded in the business of Broadcast. Besides serving as the Senior Manager for Broadcast Operations at American Tower, Jim also volunteers as president of the Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE). With more than 35 years of radio and television experience, Leifer has experienced firsthand the changes in the industry, both as a broadcast engineer and a solutions provider. We sat down with Leifer in the wake of his second-term inauguration as president of the SBE to chat about his leadership agenda in the coming year.

American Tower: Congratulations Jim, on your recent SBE reelection! Going into your second leadership term, what is your agenda?
Leifer: Thank you. I’m honored to continue leading SBE after many decades of being part of the Society. My biggest goal this year is to execute on our strategic plan to expand educational opportunities for the industry’s younger engineers. We recognize the strong need to invest and mentor the next generation of broadcasters. I have personally been a fortunate recipient of great mentorship, and I want to pay it forward. I’m lucky enough to be able to do so through SBE, as well as through my work at American Tower.

American Tower: Can you tell us a little about your background?
Leifer: I have been in the radio and television business for over 35 years. I initially studied electrical engineering, but my life changed when I took a job in college at a local radio station as a transmitter supervisor. Since then, I’ve worked in engineering and operations management for organizations such as iHeart Media, Paxson Communications, and now American Tower.

American Tower: With experience on the client side, you bring a unique perspective to your work at American Tower. Can you elaborate?
Leifer: It certainly helps to have walked in the same shoes as our clients. I can better empathize with the operational challenges they face in building and maintaining sites, and I’m in the position now to provide a higher level of care to our clients and find the best way American Tower can help them.

American Tower: What do you find to be some of the biggest challenges your clients face?
Leifer: Our broadcast customers require a hands-on service approach. One of the benefits of working with American Tower is having the resources and expertise to expedite each of our clients through the full process—from conception to contracting, negotiation, construction, and finally on-air launch. Our customers have confidence that our specialized team members will be responsive and resolve issues efficiently.

In addition to being a full-cycle provider, American Tower also offers a wide variety of additional solutions, besides just tower maintenance. These include backup power, shelters, and almost anything needed to run and operate a broadcast site.

Jim Leifer

American Tower: What are you currently working on?
Leifer: We’ve been occupied with redeveloping client transmitter sites for repack, as well as preparing sites for ATSC 3.0 technology. Our goal with these projects is to keep all sites running smoothly, without interruption. We’re also busy in the FM translator business, working with our clients on builds. In addition, we’re constantly looking for new ideas for master antenna systems in different markets. The answer is never no; it’s more like how can we do it? We advise broadcasters to reach out with their ideas, so can we find a way to support them.


Broadcasters on Jim Leifer
It’s good to work with a seasoned broadcast engineer, such as Jim Leifer, on Next Gen TV implementation. I’d do it again!

Fred Baumgartner
Director, Next Gen TV Implementation | One Media - Sinclair Broadcast

Jim offers valuable leadership by making it a lot easier for the team to discuss issues, because he has personally experienced many of the same issues himself.

Kent Keglovitz
Manager, Operations | American Tower

Because of our growth, churn, and tower rental falling in our top three annual expenses, our relationship with American Tower is significant. Working with Jim Leifer saves time and improves our relational link. Jim knows broadcast so well, the conversations are short and the motivation to care about our interests are high. For us, Jim and American Tower are our first choice when speed matters—and it always does.

John Scaggs
President/CEO | WAY Media

Customer Feature

“If We Don’t Change Broadcast, Broadcast Is Going to Change Without Us”
Larry Rogow, Chairman, Venture Technologies Group

Broadcast Towers

Larry Rogow admits the entire broadcast universe has changed since he cofounded Venture Technologies Group 30 years ago. As chairman of the media company that owns five full-power and more than 20 low-power TV stations, Larry has weathered through many changes in industry technology and standards. As spectrum repack and LPTV displacement are at the forefront of broadcast challenges, Larry is prepared to navigate through the unknowns once again and shared some of his insight with us.

Nothing can prepare you for the broadcast world. I learned that quickly, after graduating from college in the early 80s, when I decided to run TV stations as my outlet to change the world, which to an extent, I still believe I can! I find the industry constantly changing and reinventing itself, and broadcasters have to keep up, so they don’t fall behind. First came cable, now Over the Top is taking over, with 5G thrown into the mix as well. We operate in an ecosystem where broadcasters essentially act as the middlemen between program sources and consumers, and it’s not an easy position to be in.

I live in both the full-power and low-power TV worlds and can say from experience the spectrum repack and LPTV displacement affect both sides equally. In my opinion, the difference between low-power and full-power TV is technically a lot less than it’s ever been, due to the digital world we live in today. Most everybody is getting repacked in some way, and it has been a huge amount of work for everyone involved.

One of the biggest projects we’re currently working on is our first full-power and Class A station repack in Los Angeles. We’re working with contractors to build an interim facility. It has been tremendous work to rebuild the channel, which we are sharing with another station. When sharing a transmitter, I find most broadcasters generally share the same sentiments about wanting to get things done, and the key to successful cooperation is to understand everyone’s goals and maintain transparency and clarity with all members involved.

Another challenge is the need for a build-to-suit custom antenna model, because we can’t buy off-the-shelf with each station being constructed differently. Fortunately, we have the involvement of partners like American Tower to assist in coordinating the process—from finding a site, to submitting an application, and even managing stakeholder goals. I’m amazed by the efficiency and first-class service they provide. Responsiveness is essentially what it all comes down to. The repack wouldn’t have happened the way it’s going without American Tower playing such an integral role in coordinating everything with everyone, including the FCC.

Besides the Los Angeles repack project, which is heading into Phase 2, we have projects in every region going through different phases of repack, including many of our east coast stations about to enter Phase 4. I don’t doubt there are going to be major challenges for us ahead. However, I look at repack as an opportunity to maximize our facilities with a new channel. There are many ways the audience can watch their video entertainment these days, and broadcasters must figure out a way to reinvent themselves to be more responsive to the market trends. We have to find a way to make this a better industry, because if we don’t change broadcast, broadcast is going to change without us. I am a firm believer there are still great things we can do as broadcasters.

Let Us Help

At American Tower, we take customer service seriously. Our customers are encouraged to share their feedback, and we take action, with the goal of continually making it easier to work with us. We are committed to providing ongoing support to every customer, every step of the way.

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