Published on January 31st, 2019 | by Brad Gibson0
Locast launching free streaming local TV in Baltimore & DC beginning Friday
The nonprofit broadcasting service Locast.org announced Thursday it will expand to two new U.S. markets – Baltimore and Washington, DC – beginning Friday with local TV broadcast channels streaming over the Internet for free. The service will soon be available to Apple TV users in a total of nine markets via AirPlay on iOS devices using the Locast app.
Locast is currently available in seven other markets – New York, Philadelphia, Houston, Boston, Denver, Chicago, and Dallas – streaming local affiliates of ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC. With the additional markets, Locast will now cover close to 30 percent of American TV households.
The addition of the two new markets also includes closed captioning for the hearing impaired in all nine markets on selected channels and programming.
The service, launched in January of 2018, is a “digital translator” of a traditional broadcast TV station, except instead of using an over-the-air signal to boost a broadcaster’s reach, Locast streams the signal over the Internet to consumers located within select U.S. cities.
“Locast continues to expand,” said David Goodfriend, Chairman of Sports Fans Coalition New York, during a media conference call Thursday. “More than 87,000 people have signed up on the Locast web site since we launched…local, free over-the-air broadcasting is something the public wants, deserves, and should get at no cost.”
At present, Locast is available as an iOS app with AirPlay support for Apple TV users to view on televisions. AirPlay support was added November 5, 2018. The non-profit group planned to launch a tvOS app by the end of 2018, but has further delayed its release for the foreseeable future.
“(Apple TV) is further down our priority scale,” Goodfriend said.
The Locast iOS app requires a Facebook or email login and includes a detailed programming grid to select from. Live shows do not include cloud DVR or live rewind capabilities.
The addition of support for iOS-ready devices comes after the service first launched via web browsers followed by an Android app in August 2018 and a Roku app last September.
Locast is the brainchild of Goodfriend, a former Federal Communications Commission legal adviser, and is operated by the non-profit Sports Fan Coalition New York without the explicit consent of the U.S. broadcast networks or its affiliates. Goodfriend, 49, is a law professor at Georgetown and was instrumental in ending the sports blackout rule in 2014 that prevented certain sporting events from being shown on TV if attendance to the live event was poor.
The service broadcasts local channels – for instance, 13 in the New York City market and 11 in Denver – with rigid geofencing restrictions preventing consumers from watching local stations from other markets. Tests by BESTAppleTV of various VPN services showed channels through Locast were still unavailable outside local IP zones of the seven currently broadcasting markets.
Because Locast is operating without the permission of the broadcast networks, its future could possibly be one of legal problems. 13 months since it started operating, it has yet to sued by any broadcasting company.
Goodfriend is hoping an exception in the FCC rules allows them to air local channels without paying them for the service. Additionally, Goodfriend feels the service is protected by Title 17, Chapter 1, section 111 a) 5 of the Copyright Act that allows non-profits to avoid paying fees that network affiliates, satellite providers, and cable providers have to pay.
To continue operations and afford the $250,000 cost to launch a new market, Goodfriend is hoping U.S. TV viewers will support the non-profit with donations to further expand the service.
“We need individuals to go to our web site and make a contribution,” he said. “Let us know what markets you’d like to see launched next.”
Goodfriend said Locast plans to add new markets in the foreseeable future “west of the Mississippi if we can get funding.”