Locast - Free Local TV

Category: Television

Another startup that brings free over-the-air TV to Internet users is gathering attention. Locast claims it is different from the ill-fated Aereo service that was sued out of existence by national broadcasters in 2016. Can it coexist peacefully with broadcasters and cable companies? Read on to learn Locast’s legal argument and business model, 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 his 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 on your computer, 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 Houston, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Dallas, Denver, and Washington, D. C. Those markets include 23% of U.S. TV households, or about 26.5 million people.

Locast - Free Local TV

Apparently I'm in that 23% 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 are another possibility. 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.

So far, Locast has signed up 60,000 users, says the company. That’s without spending a dime on marketing yet. Goodfriend considers Locast to be still in its beta phase, not quite ready to promote aggressively.

Funding has come from Goodfriend and donations thus far; the latter have amounted to only $10,000. 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 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 the Locast FAQ page, "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. 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...

 
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This article was posted by on 6 Feb 2019


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Most recent comments on "Locast - Free Local TV"

Posted by:

GWC
06 Feb 2019

Sounds like an interesting service. Even though it is not in my area, I am sure Miami could use the service as I live far from the broadcast towers I would love to have LOCAST. My complaint is the cable and satellite services only show the major channels. There is a lot of interesting content on some of the minor channels which I would love to see.


Posted by:

Cynthia
06 Feb 2019

This sounds like a wonderful American ingenuity idea--that benefits urban dwellers. I just want to point out "again" that those of us living in rural areas are still handicapped by very slow internet speeds. We will continue to be left behind for any technological advances until the urban dwellers understand that we need their support to push for better internet services. Note that I have only one provider, cannot stream movies (buffering takes too long), cannot access over the air tv streaming, and have no other choices because my internet signal is so slow. (And perhaps most urban dwellers don't understand that cellphone signals are also spotty in the country.) Don' get me wrong: I love my country home. I just find it increasingly sad that we cannot do most of the things that city people take for granted.


Posted by:

Darrell
06 Feb 2019

Would I ever like a way to get away from Spectrum and their thirst for more fees. I could do it all except for the local (well, relatively) part.) Too far away for most network locals.


Posted by:

Daniel Knorowski
06 Feb 2019

Erred by allowing the site to know my location. No matter which city I click the result is "No broadcasts within your area". Will try again later today with a different PC and browser.

PS I want to retain my "cookies".


Posted by:

Ken L
06 Feb 2019

Bob the Google-Gmail 2 factor authentication doesn't work if using outlook to get your Gmail ? keeps asking for the user name and password!


Posted by:

Buffet
06 Feb 2019

Bob - Thanks so much for your other e-mail about your flower gig!!
Who knew???
I'm about to jump over there right now and continue shopping for my Valentine's Day delivery.


Posted by:

Kenneth Heikkila
06 Feb 2019

Cynthia said it all!


Posted by:

Buffet
06 Feb 2019

P.S. I'm gonna put an icon on my desktop for the site, and as long as this first order goes according to plan, I will likely use it every time I have need for flowers.
Thanks again.


Posted by:

nick
06 Feb 2019

I currently use locast, which works great for watching local news reports, sporting events such as the superbowl. I don't have cable but just internet.
I use Kodi and a free legal addon is the locast addon which uses their service.
Works great so far!


Posted by:

Maurice
06 Feb 2019

I hope there will be some equivalent soon in Canada! I can dream, can't I?


Posted by:

Tom
06 Feb 2019

Thanks for the tip Bob. I'm too far from the broadcast towers to get over-the-air but streaming Lowcast to my laptop's DSL line works beautifully.


Posted by:

Daniel knorowski
07 Feb 2019

First attempt failed (see above).

Second attempt: SUCCESS via Roku. Used Roku to sign up for an account: enter email address, create a password and select SIGNUP.

Bob, Thank you very much. This is definitely an OMG moment.


Posted by:

Pati
07 Feb 2019

You said it, Cynthia!!!

I was going to vote for this candidate.

Disagreed with just about everything that came out of her mouth.

But, her main platform was high speed in rural areas.

Turns out she was in a different state.

And lost.


Posted by:

Karena
07 Feb 2019

You said it, Cynthia. Speed . . . and data limits. :(


Posted by:

JP
07 Feb 2019

Sounds like a good VPN service could allow a lot of people to use this. The one I use has several servers in New York.


Posted by:

Tim
08 Feb 2019

I cut the cable today! There are so many choices. I could not get over-the-air signals at my house, but I surmised, and proved, that I could get OTA signals high up on the hill behind my house. I mounted two antennas up on the hill, with two 500 foot RG11 cables coming down to two HDHomeRun boxes. With the boxes, I have full DVR capabilities, scheduling, and pause and rewind. I've been running concurrently with cable for a month, but when my phone was ported to MagicJack overnight, I called and canceled the TV and phone. I just get internet from the cable company, saving about $200 a month!


Posted by:

Bruce
08 Feb 2019

Daniel Knorowski - you had to allow site to know your location. They don't go by the city you pick, they check your location. Mine shows my city because they could get the location from work and I could watch there, but they can't determine it at home even though the city is known from work login, so I can't watch it from home. Older OS at home. Lost cause.


Posted by:

Tony
08 Feb 2019

I wouldn't say it is all that "free" because if you don't pay the $5, they interrupt the broadcast every 30 minutes and force you to restart. Other than that it is a great service for out of towners using a VPN.


Posted by:

ed
08 Feb 2019

LOCAST only works with ROKU if you are in Philadelphia. Works ok with a browser in Boston.
I really want it on ROKU, it's easier than casting


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