What is Locast?

You might have heard of Locast. It’s the latest twist on the problem of getting streaming local TV for free. It might be the perfect solution for people who can’t get an over-the-air signal. Let’s take a look.

The basics

Locast is a way for people in very select cities to get over-the-air TV on their mobile devices and streaming boxes. For now, you’ll have to live in one of these places.

  • Los Angeles
  • New York
  • Philadelphia
  • Boston
  • Washington DC
  • Baltimore
  • Chicago
  • Houston
  • Dallas
  • Sioux Falls
  • Denver
  • Rapid City
  • San Francisco

If you do, you can go to locast.org on your computer or get the free Locast app for your iOS or Android phone, Roku or AppleTV. With Locast, you get a nice grid-style guide and you can watch as much local TV for free.

In most markets, you get not only the main channels but a lot of subchannels too. There are just a few issues.

You have to physically be in the local area.

While I’m sure that a VPN service would help here, in order to be strictly legal you need to be in the market served by a station in order to watch. This makes it a bad solution for travelers, unless you only travel very close to home.

There’s no sort of DVR service.

This is pure live TV. There’s no on demand, no pausing, no commercial skipping. This is just like watching using an antenna. If you’re not accustomed to that, it can be a little jarring.

You might be interrupted with a request for a contribution.

When the service first launched earlier this year, users reported being interrupted with a request for donation every 15 minutes or so. I’ve watched the service for a few hours on an iPad and haven’t seen anything like that. But it’s possible I got lucky.

Is Locast legal?

That’s a really, really good question. Locast claims that it’s a “translator service” and perfectly legal. They say that they’re not a paid streaming service, which would require them to pay for the signals they stream. As a translator, they’re merely providing a public service like any other traditional broadcast translator.

Technologically, they’re closest to a service called Aereo, which was ruled illegal by the Supreme Court several years ago. The difference was that Aereo charged for their service and Locast doesn’t. They solicit donations but as far as I can tell, you can watch for as long as you want with a free account.

While Aereo was opposed by pretty much every broadcast entity in existence, Locast is embraced. It uses location mapping to make sure that only the local signals get broadcast. The company’s secured funding from AT&T and others who believe that it’s the best option to avoid programming disputes. After all, if channels get blacked out on satellite then AT&T could simply tell people to use the Locast app until the dispute is resolved. This gives the local broadcaster almost no leverage.

Is Locast the best option for you?

Locast is pretty neat I’ll tell you. You do get a lot for free and you don’t have to put up an antenna. But, if you do get antenna service at home there’s a better option. Put up an antenna and you can connect a DVR or streamer to it. This gives you a lot more control. Yes, there’s a one-time cost but then you have the ultimate power. To learn more, fill out the form below or call our offices at 888-233-7563.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.