What is Locast & Why Did It Shut Down?
You have perhaps come across Locast, a nonprofit organization that permits people to continue watching local channels, such as Fox, ABC, CBS, NBC and others even if their streaming, cable, or satellite service did not transmit signals because of carriage rows or other reasons. However, this service suspended all its operations in dozens of markets a couple of weeks ago.
What Exactly is Locast?
Locast is a nonprofit owned by Sports Fans Coalition NY, a local broadcast that launched in January 2018 and is headquartered in New York. According to GlobeNewswire, Locast had accrued over 2.3 million users by January 2021. Locast sets up set-top boxes in specific cities, gathers over-the-air tv channels, and then streams them to subscribers via the internet.
They show channels that you would typically get locally. This include ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, local news, among others. This service was a blessing to individuals in regions where they have weak reception or fail to pick up local stations altogether.
How Locast TV Works
As said above, they tap into over-the-air broadcast and streams it through the internet in certain cities. A person would join by providing their credentials on their official website. Afterward, they can start streaming the service through the website or dedicated app following a successful email confirmation.
This service is compatible with Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Android TV, Roku platforms, and other platforms. Locast requires you to enter an activation code before being able to use their service from any supported device. After successfully configuring the initial setups, the TV guide appears on the user’s device.
Where to Find Locast
Locast is not available anymore. Before they shutdown they operated in 36 markets as of July 2021 which included New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Dallas Denver, Sioux Falls. Those living outside its market region are unfortunately out of luck. At Locast.org, one can find a map of the US showing where they are receiving broadcasts from.
Is Locast Free?
While Locast was offered as a free service, they depend on donations to cater to their running costs. When someone who haven't donated are using the service, Locast bombards them with annoying donation requests. One should expect an interruption to the regular programming schedule every 15 minutes asking you for contributions.
A person can, however, donate a mere $5 monthly and a processing fee of 50 cents to remove these bothersome disruptions. Some previous and present users allege that these donation disruptions are intolerable, and it would be wise to contribute to get a seamless watching experience. All in all, some individuals have the patience to sit through the requests to get Locast’s for free.
How Reliable is Locast?
Since its launch, there have been no complaints about Locast live TV streaming services. However, several users claim they do not offer HD pictures, but overall, the stations stream without buffering. A notable thing is that when many people are viewing a football game for example, streaming issues are inevitable.
Is Locast Legal?
Locast faces a lot of controversies. Major networks like ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC joined hands to sue them for copyright violations, as indicated by The New York Times. In its defense, Locast disputed these allegations and filed a counter-suit claiming these networks ganged up against them, as denoted by CNN.
What Happened to Locast?
Locast lost a court ruling in early September 2021. They had been in a legal battle with major US broadcast networks who claimed that it violated their copyrights by illegally tapping and transmitting their broadcast programming. Ideally, a pay-TV service should pay broadcasters or their affiliates some fees before offering their service.
However, in defense, Locast alleged it is a nonprofit, and the law allows it to transmit the broadcast for free provided consumers do not pay a subscription fee. Under this Copyright Act, a nonprofit organization can offer secondary transmission services, and that is what Locast used to show their innocence.
Yet, Locast also asked for $5 monthly donations from users for operational purposes. Worse, they disrupted the Live TV every 15 minutes to ask for contributions. These donation advertisements created a solid basis for the broadcasters’ argument. The judge agreed with the broadcasters that the donations swayed away from the law’s spirit.
Suspending Operations Effective Immediately
Although the court did not shut down Locast operations or rule in favor of the copyright claim, the judge’s ruling makes it hard to run without the $5 contributions. So, instead of continuing their streams while searching for new funding, they issued a statement stating that it was suspending all operations effective immediately.
“As a nonprofit organization, (Sports Fans Coalition) Locast was created from the get-go to operate within the enacted rules, but following the latest court rulings, which the company humbly disagrees with, we are suspending our operations, effective immediately,” the company said in their Twitter Account.
Will Locast Re-emerge?
Although Locast can make a comeback, it is worth noting that the broadcasters won a similar case against Aereo in 2014, as published by The New York Times. Just like Locast, they used to transmit live tv broadcasters’ signals without their consent. In that ruling, the judge shut down Aereo, claiming that they violated copyright law.
So, even if they find new funding, the chances are that their services may face the same destiny. As of now, people need to search for other ways of watching their favorite local TV stations.
The Bottom Line
Locast allowed those who live in a rural area a great way to watch local stations/live tv without cable. All in all, there are some reasons why it would be wise to prefer viewing local channels without using a tv streaming service like locast. They include:
- Services like Locast typically get shut down due to operating in a grey area of the law.
- To stream live TV necessitates a supported gadget and stable internet connection. If your internet goes down especially in places like Florida where you have hurricanes, you can miss out on important life-saving information.
- After every 15 minutes, Locast disrupts live TV with donation demands, making it hard to watch the free plan.
Having said that, Locast was the best deal for those who have trouble receiving broadcast signals in their area. It also suits Sling TV customers that do not support some channels like Hulu Live and YouTube TV. However, given the legal implications, locast may never resurface.