Locast is a non-profit streaming service offering local, over-the-air television. Funded by donations, the service premiered in New York City in January 2018 and has expanded to other American metropolitan areas.
|Developer||Sports Fans Coalition|
|Launch date||January 2018|
Locast was founded by attorney David Goodfriend, who views the service as a test case for the proposition that non-profit organizations are not obligated to pay broadcasters for the right to re-transmit their signals. That proposition threatens a revenue stream worth billions of dollars to broadcasters while raising the price of cable and satellite subscriptions.
In July 2019, the parent companies of the four major U.S. networks sued Locast, charging that the service violates copyright law.
Goodfriend was a media legal adviser to an FCC commissioner and an executive at Dish Network. He conceived of Locast while lecturing at Georgetown Law on the demise of Aereo, which offered over-the-air television signals via streaming without negotiating with broadcasters for the privilege as required by the retransmission consent provision of the Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act. After broadcasters sued, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that the company had violated copyright law. Aereo declared bankruptcy shortly after. Goodfriend surmised that a non-profit organization would be exempt from the provision. Locast has become his proof of concept. The name is a contraction of "local" and "broadcast".
Goodfriend initially funded the service via a line of credit from an undisclosed entrepreneur. The site now solicits user donations. In January 2018, Locast went online in New York as a service of the Sports Fans Coalition, a non-profit advocacy group chaired by Goodfriend. The city's television stations were neither notified nor compensated. Broadcast signals are received by a four-foot antenna mounted on the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Manhattan. Locast has since expanded the service to other regions of the country.
The carriers have sometimes steered customers to Locast as a way of circumventing blackouts during carriage disputes. In January 2019, Charter Communications did so in a dispute with Tribune Media, that blocked a playoff football game airing on Fox. In July, AT&T steered customers to Locast as a way for DirecTV customers to get around a blackout of CBS-owned stations. That month, AT&T added the Locast app to its DirecTV and U-verse platforms. Previously, Dish added Locast to its Hopper box.
By not paying retransmission fees, Locast threatens to undercut a revenue stream for broadcasters that in 2019 is expected to exceed $10 billion, while adding about $12 a month to the cost of cable and satellite subscriptions.
On July 31, 2019, The Walt Disney Company, CBS Corporation, NBCUniversal and Fox Corporation – the respective parent companies of ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox – filed a lawsuit against Locast in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York seeking a permanent injunction to shut down Locast. The four media companies claim that its retransmissions of television station signals violate their copyrights and threaten their retransmission agreements with conventional and virtual multichannel television providers. They also accuse Locast of acting on behalf of AT&T (owner of satellite provider DirecTV and virtual television provider AT&T TV Now) and satellite provider Dish Network, suggesting that its ties to the two companies – by way of AT&T's $500,000 donation to Locast shortly after its founding, and Goodfriend's previous service as a lobbyist for Dish – undermine its nonprofit status.
On September 27, 2019, Locast answered the claim and filed a counter-suit alleging that the networks were engaging in collusion. The filing asserted that under Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 111(a)(5), a non-profit organization can re-transmit a broadcast signal without seeking consent when it doesn't gain a commercial advantage and only charges for the cost of maintenance and operations. "Locast fits squarely within this Congressionally-designated exception to infringement." In doing so, the claim argued, Locast is providing access to over-the-air signals that the plaintiffs are obligated to make available for free to all Americans, not just those who can receive the signal through an antenna. The counter-suit contended that the litigation "is part of a broader coordinated campaign to undermine Defendants’ business dealings and chill financial support among potential donors, including with direct threats of retaliation or baseless litigation against them." The counter-suit claimed, for example, that broadcasters threatened YouTube TV with punishment if it provided access to Locast.
- Dallas–Fort Worth
- Los Angeles
- New York City
- Rapid City
- San Francisco
- Sioux Falls
- Washington, D.C.
Locast is accessible via a web browser, Android and iOS apps, as well as FireTV, AppleTV, Roku and TiVo devices, and can be cast to a larger screen using AirPlay and Google Cast. After registering, viewers are presented with a programming grid from which to select a channel. Programming is periodically interrupted to solicit for donations until one is made, with a suggested minimum contribution of $5.00 per month. The service offers no recording features.
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- AMERICAN BROADCASTING COMPANIES, INC., et. al. v. DAVID R. GOODFRIEND and SPORTS FANS COALITION NY, INC. (UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK July 31, 2019). Text
- Lee, Edmund (2019-09-27). "Locast, a Free Streaming Service, Sues ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-09-27.
- AMERICAN BROADCASTING COMPANIES, INC et.al. v. DAVID R. GOODFRIEND and SPORTS FANS COALITION NY, INC. (UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK 9/12/19). Text
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