Free Local TV - No Antenna, No Cable, No Problem

Category: Television

Locast, a service that brings free over-the-air local TV to Internet users is gathering lots of attention. Locast claims it is different from the ill-fated Aereo service that was sued out of existence by national broadcasters in 2016. Is this the perfect fix for cord cutters who miss their local channels? Can it coexist peacefully with broadcasters and cable companies? Read on to learn more about Locast, and if it's available in your area...

What is Locast? And is it Legal?

Locast was actually inspired by a major cable TV company. In 2010, while locked in a contract dispute with Fox that led to a blackout of the World Series in New York, Cablevision called for a government or nonprofit entity to re-transmit the over-the-air broadcast of the Series to Internet users. U.S. copyright laws allows such entities to re-transmit broadcast signals without the producers’ permission, Cablevision claimed. Attorney and sports fan David Goodfriend accepted that challenge, creating Locast as a nonprofit organization.

Locast takes broadcast TV signals from the air and converts them to streamable Internet content. A subscriber can stream content to their computer, TV, Roku, smartphone, or other device, enabling them to watch favorite shows anywhere or record them for later viewing. Yes, that means you can watch The Price is Right, Judge Judy, or local news broadcasts, even if you don't have an antenna on the roof, or cable TV service.

Copyright law restricts nonprofit re-transmissions to local markets in which a nonprofit’s antenna receives broadcast signals. So unlike Aereo, Locast sets up physical facilities in each market it chooses to serve. Since launching in New York City in January, 2018, Locast has expanded to Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Rapid City, San Francisco, Seattle, Sioux City, Sioux Falls, and Washington DC. Those markets include 36% of U.S. TV households, or about 42 million people.

Locast - Free Local TV

Apparently I'm in that 36% since I'm within an hour's drive from New York City. I created a free account on Locast and was greeted with a "Live TV Guide" menu showing all the local channels, and what will be playing for the next 7 days. The format of the listings is quite similar to what you'd find in a local paper. I was able to stream content from 18 local channels, including WCBS, WNBC, WABC, WWOR, and WPIX. Locast uses "geo-fencing technology" to make sure that if you are within the local market boundary.

So who is likely to use a service like Locast? Locast can be a boon for viewers who have poor over-the-air signal reception. Many city dwellers cannot receive local TV broadcast signals, because tall buildings can make it difficult to receive an over-the-air signal in an apartment or condo.

Cordcutters who want to end high cable TV bills may also find Locast attractive. Locast would provide an option to watch local channels that were lost when cancelling cable service. Frequent travelers who don’t want to miss favorite local shows are others who might want Locast.

You can view local channels via Locast on your computer, smartphone, or your living room TV with a Roku or Apple TV streaming box. So far, Locast has signed up over 1 million users, says the company. That’s without spending a dime on marketing yet. Funding has come from Goodfriend and donations thus far.

When you start a new show, there's a brief pitch for a $5/month donation to support the Locast service. That's optional, but eventually, Locast may have to charge a subscription fee. It can do so legally as long as fees do not exceed the costs of providing service. Another potential revenue stream is selling viewer demographics and viewing data to broadcasters. Goodfriend is also seeking corporate sponsorships, and is courting Samsung to include Locast in smart TVs.

Goodfriend seems driven to prove the legality of Locast’s business model, not to carry it to economic success. He’s hoping that other nonprofits will provide services like Locast to their local communities. “It could be any nonprofit. It could be a church, local government, a university…” he told the New York Times. Perhaps they will, if Locast can demonstrate how to do it legally at low cost.

In 1976, the U.S. Congress passed a law making it illegal to retransmit a local broadcast signal without a copyright license. But Congress made an exception. According to Locast, "Any non-profit organization could make a secondary transmission of a local broadcast signal, provided the non-profit did not receive any 'direct or indirect commercial advantage' and either offered the signal for free or for a fee 'necessary to defray the actual and reasonable costs' of providing the service."

Locast is interesting from a legal standpoint. It's not clear if they will survive the inevitable legal challenges, or how many people stand to benefit from it. In July 2019, major broadcasters including ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC filed a lawsuit asking the court to shut down Locast. Locast then filed a countersuit. You can read more about the legal issues in this NY Times article.

Cordcutting is not as simple as canceling cable service and signing up for another service. But locast is one more tool that cordcutters and urban dwellers can use to roll their own video viewing packages.

Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

Ask Your Computer or Internet Question

  (Enter your question in the box above.)

It's Guaranteed to Make You Smarter...

AskBob Updates: Boost your Internet IQ & solve computer problems.
Get your FREE Subscription!


Check out other articles in this category:

Link to this article from your site or blog. Just copy and paste from this box:

This article was posted by on 15 Apr 2020

For Fun: Buy Bob a Snickers.

Prev Article:
Some Privacy Tools You Should Try (and one to avoid)

The Top Twenty
Next Article:
Geekly Update - 16 April 2020

Most recent comments on "Free Local TV - No Antenna, No Cable, No Problem"

Posted by:

Emily Booth
15 Apr 2020

I cannot get a local station because it has a low powered signal. I've tried different antennas. It's been frustrating because I missed the Oscars for the last 2 years. I don't have cable. I would be interested in this.

Posted by:

John T
15 Apr 2020

I cut the cord 6 years ago. I guess here in SE NC I am not in the Locast area because when I click the link in your article, their .org page connects but nothing is displayed. I have a Sling acct and stream via my Roku's. I also just added the AirTV2 which is by Sling and ties all my local channels from my OTA antenna to my Sling acct. Via this I can stream my OTA TV channels also via my Roku's to my TV's. But seems at times an issue if one device is already accessing the Air TV2! As well they (Sling/AirTV2) have DVR issues recording only new OTA programming or all listings of a specific OTA channel, thus I have to be sure to set up to record my OTA shows each week for that episode. They could not tell me when or if they would get this fixed. The AirTV2 sounds great but still some issues so not perfect.

Posted by:

Tim Carney
15 Apr 2020

I have been using Locast for about a year now. I donate $5/month via automatic credit card payment, which eliminates the interruption requesting a donation. I combine this with FitzyTV for DVR capability at $5/month. For a total of $10/month, I get the local channels and DVR service over the internet. I am quite happy with the setup.

Posted by:

15 Apr 2020

This sounds like a good service for people who can't afford cable service,but be forewarned the service does not carry CNN,Bravo,BET,MSNBC,CNBC and the other traditional cable offerings,They carry just the local TV stations that is in your market.That includes channels that carry Spanish and Korean programs.

This is perfect for someone who don't need the extra channels,just the ones for local news and syndicated shows.

Posted by:

Michael Lawson
15 Apr 2020

I've used Locast for almost a year on my iphone and Ipads and it is flawless. Perfect pictures and sound. You can't ask for more.

Posted by:

15 Apr 2020

Thanks, Bob! I attempted to sign up with Locast; however I can't even find tools with my Windows 10. This thing has always been a hassle. Nothing is convenient. Any suggestions? Thanks!

Posted by:

Hal Schaefgen
15 Apr 2020

If I could get Locast local channels via streaming and my Roku stick, how would I be able to record them? I do not know of a way to record from a Roku stick, much less be able to program a series of recordings. I currently use an antenna (enormous indoor 8 bowtie is needed) and a Tablo receiver to record and distribute the signal. This works reasonably well, but streaming would be easier.

Posted by:

15 Apr 2020

Can you use this with FireStick. If so, can you walk me through the process. I am very computer illiterate. TIA.

Posted by:

Bill C.
15 Apr 2020

Emily Booth.....You missed the Oscars and you're complaining. Why?

Posted by:

15 Apr 2020

I just checked the SupremeCourt' Calendar and I've confirmed that there is still 24 Hours in every single day. I just don't understand how you get time to keep us woke, while tinkering around with such things as LoCast. Next; you will be skooling us in finer pleasures of macrame and techniques in playing a cello with the left hand.
Thank you.

Posted by:

17 Apr 2020

It would be very nice of you to include Canada also, whether what is offered in the USA is also available in Canada.
Thank you.

Post your Comments, Questions or Suggestions

*     *     (* = Required field)

    (Your email address will not be published)
(you may use HTML tags for style)

YES... spelling, punctuation, grammar and proper use of UPPER/lower case are important! Comments of a political nature are discouraged. Please limit your remarks to 3-4 paragraphs. If you want to see your comment posted, pay attention to these items.

All comments are reviewed, and may be edited or removed at the discretion of the moderator.

NOTE: Please, post comments on this article ONLY.
If you want to ask a question click here.

Free Tech Support -- Ask Bob Rankin
Subscribe to AskBobRankin Updates: Free Newsletter

Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved
Privacy Policy     RSS/XML

Article information: AskBobRankin -- Free Local TV - No Antenna, No Cable, No Problem (Posted: 15 Apr 2020)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved