Locast Adds Atlanta, Phoenix

NEW YORK—Locast, the free TV station streaming service, has added two more markets, Atlanta and Phoenix, bringing its total to 15 markets where broadband users can watch local TV station signals over-the-top for free, though Locast asks for a donation.

Broadcasters have sued Locast over the service, which relies on an exception for nonprofits in copyright law to stream the stations without asking their permission or negotiating a fee for carriage.

Locast was launched by the Sports Fans Coalition in part as a way to give viewers access to sports programming during retrans blackouts—via a copyright exemption for nonprofits that retransmit TV-station signals, like the translators that extend TV station signals to hard-to-reach areas.

Obviously, alternative ways for MVPDs to get stations that don’t involve going to the local bar or switching to an antenna reduces broadcasters’ leverage in retrans negotiations. For example, AT&T, during its recent impasse with Sinclair, suggested Locast as an alternative to stations blacked out by Sinclair.

In their suit, network lawyers say Locast is nothing like the TV translators it purported to resemble. “Locast is not a public service devoted to viewers whose reception is affected by tall building[s] … Instead, Locast’s founding, funding and operations reveal its decidedly commercial purposes,” they said.

Locast said it will add more markets before the end of the year, and if it can raise enough via donations, all 210 markets eventually.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio WorldTV TechTV FaxThis Week in Consumer ElectronicsVariety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.