Make us your home page
Instagram

Auction nets USF $18.8M, but spells end to WUSF-TV

The headquarters of WUSF-TV on the campus of the University of South Florida. The university announced Feb. 8, 2017 that it has sold the station's public broadcast license for $18.8 million. As part of the deal, the station will go dark later this year, ending a 50-year run. [WUSF-TV]

The headquarters of WUSF-TV on the campus of the University of South Florida. The university announced Feb. 8, 2017 that it has sold the station's public broadcast license for $18.8 million. As part of the deal, the station will go dark later this year, ending a 50-year run. [WUSF-TV]

The University of South Florida has sold WUSF-TV's public broadcast license for $18.8 million, bringing an end to the station's run of more than 50 years.

The station will go off the air late this year, once USF receives its proceeds at the close of what is known as the Federal Communication Commission's "broadcast incentive auction."

Meanwhile, the future remains unclear for the station's programming and its 22 employees.

"We're reviewing our inventory and our options, and that includes looking at support from other public broadcasters. No decisions have been made," USF spokeswoman Lara Wade said. "We have some time to figure this out."

WUSF public radio stations will not be affected.

A few years ago, the federal government announced an auction in which TV stations could sell or trade their broadcasting rights, freeing up valuable space on the broadcast spectrum for data-hungry smartphones and other wireless devices.

Cellphone operators like Verizon Communications and AT&T promised they'd pay top dollar for the "vital" space, ideal for supporting the growing burden of cellular traffic.

Early numbers from the FCC estimated big potential gains for USF, up to $349.2 million for taking the station off the air completely. Other options included switching or sharing channels or doing nothing — but if the university didn't participate, the FCC retained the power to push the station onto a lower-quality frequency.

WUSF-TV was losing money and drawing relatively low viewership numbers. Meanwhile, television's place in the university's future was becoming a point of debate.

"I am not at all convinced that a traditional TV platform has as powerful a future reach as digital content that can be developed and 'pushed out' to future generations via rapidly evolving technology platforms," USF provost Ralph Wilcox said in an email to the university's chief of staff in fall 2015.

That October, the USF board of trustees voted unanimously to enter the auction.

"We were trying to align our resources with our mission and vision," Wade said. "Our core mission is student success."

The auction dragged on. Cellphone companies that had demanded the spectrum space showed little interest in paying up. As potential sale prices plummeted, critics called the auction a joke.

Stations still sold, including those of other universities. Central Michigan University, for example, said it expects $14 million for selling WFUM's signal in Flint.

Bidders will remain anonymous until the auction ends.

WUSF-TV broadcasts an array of shows, from murder mysteries and children's television to programs about nature, history and travel. A station representative deferred comment to the university.

Information from Times files was used in this report. Contact Claire McNeill at cmcneill@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8321.

Auction nets USF $18.8M, but spells end to WUSF-TV 02/08/17 [Last modified: Thursday, February 9, 2017 3:42pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Despite Hurricane Irma, Hillsborough remains on pace to unlock hotel tax that could pay for Rays ballpark

    Tourism

    TAMPA — Despite the threat of a catastrophic storm, it was business as usual at many Hillsborough County hotels in the days before Hurricane Irma bore down on the Tampa Bay region.

    The Grand Hyatt near TIA closed during Hurricane Irma, but many other Hillsborough hotels were open and saw an influx.
  2. New Graham-Cassidy health care plan stumbles under opposition from governors

    Nation

    WASHINGTON — The suddenly resurgent Republican effort to undo the Affordable Care Act was dealt a blow on Tuesday when a bipartisan group of governors came out against a proposal gaining steam in the Senate.

    Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., joined by, from left, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., speaks to reporters as he pushes a last-ditch effort to uproot former President Barack Obama's health care law, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. To win, 50 of the 52 GOP senators must back it -- a margin they failed to reach when the chamber rejected the effort in July. [/J. Scott Applewhite | Associated Press]
  3. Early estimates peg Hurricane Irma damage at as much as $65B

    Banking

    The damage totals from Hurricane Irma are still being tallied, but early numbers are in: As of Tuesday, the storm is estimated to have caused between $42.5 billion and $65 billion of damage. That's according to a Tuesday release by Irvine, Calif.-based analytics company CoreLogic.

    Hurricane Irma is estimated to have caused up to $65 billion in damage, said analytics company CoreLogic. Pictured is 
Hermilo Munoz Castillo as wades down a flooded street to check on his home in southern Collier County, Fla. after Hurricane Irma passed. | [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  4. Port Tampa Bay makes public/private commitment for $60 million expansion project

    Business

    TAMPA — Port Tampa Bay approved a public-private partnership agreement with four other entities to divvy up who will pay for a $60 million widening and extension of the Big Bend Channel.

    Port Tampa Bay approved a participation agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Florida Department of Transportation, Tampa Electric Company and Mosaic Company at the port's monthly board meeting on  Tuesday. Port Tampa Bay President & CEO Paul Anderson signs the agreement as Ram Kancharla; Port Tampa Bay's vice president of planning & development, Brandon Burch; project manager at United States Army Corps of Engineers, Lois Moore; of Alcalde and Fay and Charles Klug; Port Tampa Bay principal counsel, and Tim Murphy; deputy district engineer of the Army Corps., looks on. [Company handout]
  5. One of St. Petersburg's newest condo projects is sold out

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — Reflecting the continued demand for condos in downtown St. Petersburg, The Salvador, completed earlier this year at 199 Dali Blvd., has sold out. Records show that a 2-bedroom, 2-bath unit sold Friday for $620,000 in an all-cash deal. Two other units — a 3-bedroom, 2-bath penthouse and a …

     Reflecting the continued demand for condos in downtown St. Petersburg, The Salvador, completed earlier this year at 199 Dali Blvd., has sold out. 
[Rendering courtesy of aalliiggnn LLC]