Before this week, few talked about Locast and most had not even heard of it. Then, the four major chains in the United States joined forces to sue this streaming service. Now people are asking questions like: Do you know what Locast is? What does it do? Why ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox have it in their sights and in court? And how is AT&T also in some way involved? This is all you need to know about Locast and if it is worth checking out.
WHAT IS LOCAST?
Locast is a non-profit organization created in 2018 that redistributes television broadcasts online. The service is free, although the group site receives donations. Currently Locast only operates within the United States and only in some cities. Locast is operated by Sports Fans Coalition NY and its founder is David Goodfriend, lawyer and former executive of the Dish TV satellite TV service.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
With Locast, it's easy to watch a live TV stream. You can use the organization's website, which has a built-in player, or you can download and install one of the free Locast applications 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.
CAN I SEE ANY TV CHANNEL?
No. Since the purpose of Locast is to be a way for people to receive their local air transmissions without the need for an antenna or a subscription to a cable or satellite service, you can only see the channels you will have access to through of these traditional means. Although theoretically these geographical limitations can be mocked with a virtual private network, Locast is not designed to provide access to non-local channels.
ISN'T THIS THE SAME AS AIR?
Aereo was a live television streaming service that, since 2012, provided a very similar platform: you could subscribe for one dollar a day and receive access to local air transmissions via the internet. Although the technology used for Aereo is different from that of Locast, the result is basically the same. The biggest difference is that Locast does not charge for access to these redistributed transmissions. The greatest similarity is that Aereo did not pay the television stations it broadcasts and Locast either. Companies like CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox normally charge a fee for letting their content be distributed over cable, satellite and live streaming services such as Sony's PlayStation Vue and AT&T TV Now (formerly known as DirecTV Now). The four major chains took Aereo to court and the Supreme Court ruled against Aereo, a defeat that culminated in his disappearance.
WHY THE FOUR BIG CHAINS ARE DEMANDING LOCAST?
ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox see the Locast service as well as the Aereo service. Although they recognize that the laws of the United States have clauses for nonprofit organizations to redistribute television signals, they do not believe that the Locast model is what was in mind when these clauses 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, despite the fact that Locast has positioned itself as a non-profit organization. If locast is able to ignore the rate model by providing viewers with a free and simple way to watch their local channels without a cable or satellite subscription or even an antenna, the big chains could lose millions.
For its part, Locast is promoted as a public service, in accordance with the concessions of the law for limited types of redistribution, with the exception that instead of an air transmitter, we provide local transmissions through online streaming, from according to the About page of the organization. Locast declined our interview request for this article, addressing its public statement:
Locast is an independent non-profit organization that provides a public service broadcasting television on the air for free. Their activities are expressly allowed under the Copyright Law. The fact that no station has filed a lawsuit for more than a year and a half indicates that they recognize this. We are waiting to defend ourselves (and to defend the public's right to receive airborne material) in dispute. David Hosp, Locast lawyer
WHY DEMAND LOCAST NOW?
When the New York Times wrote about Locast and Goodfriend in January, Locast had been operating for a year. Goodfriend told the newspaper that he will have no problem with a legal challenge on the part of the chains. At that time, the journalist Edmund Lee asked the guiding question, The chain dilemma: sue or ignore?
We asked a representative of the four chains why they had chosen the path of ignoring it until now. The answer was that although Locast had not escaped his attention since his service began to be available, it was a very small operation that was limited to New York City, characterized by Goodfriend as an experiment of ideas.
Ignoring became a demand when Locast's reach began to grow far beyond his humble roots. Locast operates in 13 major markets and claims that its reach is more than 13 million American homes. Locast is no longer an experiment of ideas; It is a very real alternative to the antennas and, to some extent, the cable and the satellite.
HOW AND WHY IS AT&T INVOLVED?
The other thing that caught the attention of the four major chains in the United States was that AT&T supported Locast. In May, AT&T added the free Locast application to its DirecTV and U-verse receivers. In June, the company announced a donation of $ 500,000 dollars for the organization. These actions took place while AT&T was in the middle of a heated contract negotiation with CBS around retransmission rates. Previously the failed negotiations had caused service suspensions or the temporary elimination of cable and satellite service channels, leaving viewers with no way of seeing them. Apparently, AT&T's seemingly unconditional support for a service that would give its customers access to local television stations without costing AT&T anything was the drop that spilled the glass for the four major chains; Then the lawsuit was filed against Locast.
It is difficult to know how the courts will handle the case. Locast and Goodfriend strongly believe that their status as a nonprofit organization will provide protection against charges of copyright infringement that ended Air. We prepare well, commented Goodfriend to the New York Times. We operate under parameters designed to comply with the law.