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Translators Are Hot Commodity

BIA/Kelsey tracks the action during the current application window

Text had been updated to add comparative historical data.

Sales of FM translators have spiked sharply in the United States, driven by opportunities created in the current FCC application window.

BIA/Kelsey reported on its website that in just the week of Aug. 5–12, it recorded 11 more FM translator sales. And since July 29, it reported, “This brings the total to date [to] 88 sales of nearly $4 million in value.” [It subsequently told Radio World that in the same weeks of last year, only 27 FM translators sold for a total of $795,000.]

The company wrote, “We expect that the sales activity will continue to be strong as there is a tremendous opportunity for AM stations to improve their service (especially at night) utilizing these FM translators. In fact, according to BIA/Kelsey’s Media Access Pro, as of Aug. 15, there are 1,727 AM stations utilizing 1,961 FM translators.”

The current window is part of the FCC AM revitalization initiative. Four translator windows in total are scheduled.

The first, which ran from January to July, allowed Class C and D AM stations — the “lower-powered and/or service-limited” occupants of the band — to acquire and relocate one non-reserved-band FM translator by up to 250 miles, and specify any non-reserved band FM channel, through a minor mod application. The current second window widens that opportunity to other AMs and runs through October. The third and fourth windows, to be held in 2017, will give AMs that don’t apply in the first two windows a chance to seek new FM translators at auction, again with Classes C and D going first.

Overall, we expected this to be the year of the translator, and that has come to pass. A BIA/Kelsey spokesman also told Radio World that from January through June of this year, there were 572 FM translators sold with a value of $23.2 million; that compares with 187 sold in the same time period last year for $6.5 million.

Navigating the Translator Filing Maze for AM Stations