Locast has just released their highly anticipated app to all Fire TV models. This is a completely free app that streams local broadcast channels, like NBC, ABC, CBS, and FOX to residents of the US cities that they support. The service gets away with streaming these channels for free and without paying these networks for streaming rights by taking advantage of a bit of a loophole in the law that allows any nonprofit, which Locast is, to retransmit over-the-air broadcast channels.
Locast is currently only available to residents of Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington DC. That’s because the law they’re taking advantage of states that they must have a physical antenna in the location that they’re servicing. Just a month ago, that list didn’t include Baltimore and Washington DC, so the service is slowly expanding to cover more of the US.
There’s no doubt that the major US broadcast networks aren’t too happy with Locast. According to an article by The New York Times from last month, they haven’t been sued yet. That could be because they’re still a small service or because broadcasters are worried that a judge will rule that the service is legal, causing other similar services to emerge with new confidence that they won’t be sued out of existence.
If you live in one of the supported cities, give the service a try and enjoy it while you can. There are plenty of sketchy seeming streaming services that pop up all the time that seem too good to be true, but Locast seems to be the exception that is actually legal. Well, at least until broadcaster lobbyists get the loophole in the law changed.
I’m not in a supported city, so I have never tried the service, but several people have chimed in with a few details about the service. You should be aware that if you don’t donate, your stream will be interrupted about every 15 minutes with a request to donate. If you dismiss the request, you will be sent to the program guide screen, instead of back to your stream, so you can imagine how that can quickly get annoying. People who have donated say that the donation interruption goes away, but it’s unclear for how long. Several people have commented that the donation nag returned a few days after donating, while others have said the donation nag has never returned after donating.