Monday, September 20

What is Locast? Free TV streaming that the big networks hated | Digital Trends Spanish

It’s no surprise, but Locast – which took over the free broadcasts of major television channels in about three dozen major markets in the US – ceased to exist. After a couple of years of existence, the four big television networks got together and filed a lawsuit. And on September 1, 2021, a federal judge granted a summary judgment that caused Locast to shut down its operations just one day later. Anyway, here we explain what is locast (or was).

We will leave the rest of this article unchanged, for posterity.

Let’s say you want to watch local TV channels, but you have poor reception on your HDTV antenna. Unfortunately, that was your only free option. However, you have other alternatives: pay a satellite or cable company a monthly fee for that content, or one of the big live streaming platforms like YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV, or AT&T TV. In either case you have to pay. Or not? If by chance you live in one of the 34 markets where the Locast service operates, you will be able to watch your local stations online for free, with no required subscriptions.

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What is Locast?

Locast is a non-profit organization created in 2018 that redistributes overhead television broadcasts online. The service is free, although the group’s site receives donations. Locast currently only operates within the United States and only in select cities. The service is operated by Sports Fans Coalition NY and its founder is David Goodfriend, lawyer and former executive of the satellite TV service Dish Network.

How does it work?

With Locast, it’s easy to watch a live TV stream. You can use the organization’s site, which has a built-in player, or you can download and install one of the free Locast apps available for iOS, tvOS, Android, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV or Roku. To start watching content on any of these platforms, you must first create a free Locast account.

When you sign up for the service, a TV guide will appear with the streamed channels available in your specific market. If you touch a show that is on the air, a brief description and the option to start watching will appear. No DVR capability to record and no shows on demand, only live TV.

Can I watch any television channel?

No. Since the purpose of Locast is to be a way for people to receive their local over-the-air broadcasts without the need for an antenna or a subscription to a cable or satellite service, you can only watch the channels that you would have access to through of these traditional media. Although in theory these geographic limitations can be circumvented with a virtual private network, Locast is not designed to provide access to non-local channels.

Is it the same as Aereo?

Aereo was a live television streaming service that, since 2012, provided a very similar platform: you could subscribe for a dollar a day and receive internet access to local over-the-air broadcasts. Although the technology used for Aereo is different from that of Locast, the result is basically the same. The biggest difference is that Locast doesn’t charge for access to these redistributed streams. The biggest similarity is that Aereo did not pay the broadcasters it broadcast and neither did Locast.

Companies like CBS, ABC, NBC, and Fox typically charge a fee for letting their content be distributed by cable, satellite, and live streaming services like Sony’s PlayStation Vue and AT&T TV Now (formerly known as DirecTV Now). The four major networks brought Aereo to court and the Supreme Court ruled against Aereo, a defeat that culminated in his disappearance.

Will Locast be able to avoid the same fate as Aereo?

ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox view Locast’s service the same as Aereo’s. In July 2019, they initiated the same legal strategy by suing Locast. Although they acknowledge that US law has provisions for nonprofits to redistribute television signals, they do not believe that the Locast model is what was had in mind when these provisions were created to help people living in rural or urban areas receive local television signals.

In essence, these networks see Locast as a commercial entity, even though Locast has positioned itself as a non-profit organization. If locast is able to bypass the rate model by providing viewers with a free and easy way to watch their local channels without a cable or satellite subscription or even an antenna, the big networks could lose millions.

Locast’s response to the broadcasters’ lawsuits is a counterclaim it filed in September 2019. It not only denies any wrongdoing, but argues that “the big networks have ‘colluded’ as part of an effort to undermine and shutting down Locast ‘by threatening business retaliation’ against any potential partner, “according to The New York Times. The big four networks have requested that Locast’s antitrust lawsuits be dropped, but so far, there have been no hearings on any of the legal actions.

Locast’s defense

Fighting a court battle against opponents who have billions of dollars at risk (and billions of dollars to spend) won’t be cheap. In December 2019, Locast launched a campaign GoFundMe to get some help with your legal expenses. Apparently, very few people decided to help Locast (the campaign only raised $ 14,551 of its goal of $ 500,000 before it ended).

However, the good news came in March 2020, when the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) agreed boost Locast’s defense team, which has reduced Locast’s legal costs to zero. “Local television is a vital source of news and cultural programming for millions of people,” Mitch Stoltz, lead attorney for the EFF, told, “which now matters more than ever because of COVID-19.”

How and why is AT&T involved?

Something that also caught the attention of the four big chains in the United States was that AT&T supported Locast. In May 2019, AT&T added the free Locast app to its DirecTV and U-verse receivers. In June, the company announced a donation of $ 500,000 to the organization. These actions came as AT&T was in the midst of a heated contract negotiation with CBS over retransmission rates.

Previously failed negotiations had resulted in service suspensions or the temporary removal of channels from cable and satellite services, leaving viewers with no way to watch them. Apparently AT & T’s seemingly unconditional support for a service that would give its customers access to local television stations at no cost to AT&T was the final straw for the big four networks; then the lawsuit was filed against Locast.

Locast says AT & T’s financial support is small when compared to the value of donations it receives from individuals, yet it doesn’t hurt to have friends with great resources.

Will Locast Survive?

It is too early to say. The courts have allowed it to continue to operate while the results of the lawsuits are determined, which are still in process in the legal system, but cable networks have a long record of victories in these types of lawsuits.

Yet despite its imminent legal risk, Locast has not stopped pushing. At last count, the service registered a base of 2,300,000 users, up from 1,000,000 in February 2020, according to MediaPost. With its current footprint in 31 cities, it has the capacity to serve 168,000,000 people or 51.7 percent of the US market. In November 2020, Goodfriend said the service has attracted enough donors for Locast to achieve “operational sustainability.”

It is difficult to say how the courts will handle this case. Locast and Goodfriend strongly believe that the organization’s status as a nonprofit achieves protection against the copyright infringement charges that ultimately ended Aereo. “We actually did our homework,” Goodfriend told The New York Times. “We are operating under parameters that are designed to comply with the law.”

Goodfriend is also convinced that the days of cable and satellite companies are numbered. “People are cutting the cord,” he told “The number of people who subscribe to cable or satellite services is decreasing and even at an accelerated rate. It’s over. It’s just a matter of when it’s going to end ”.

Digital Trends in Spanish has noticed the same trend and if the company survives the legal attack, Locast could be the best friend of those looking to cut the cable in the next few years.

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