Locast, a streaming service that offers free access to local broadcast TV channels, is now streaming 20 local TV channels in Sioux City, Iowa.
The channels include KCAU ABC 9, KTIV NBC 4, and KPTH FOX 44/KMEG CBS 14 as well as KUSD PBS. Additional channels include ION, LAFF, BOUNCE, DABL, Stadium, TBD., Comet, MeTV, The CW, Charge!, Court TV Mystery, Escape, PBS Kids, PBS World and PBS Create.
“As a nonprofit, we’re using the power of the internet to ensure Sioux City viewers have full access to their publicly available local TV channels for free, a feat that has proved challenging for local broadcasters,” said Locast founder David Goodfriend in a statement. “Our mission is similar to the thousands of local translator stations that boost over-the-air TV signals to hard-to-reach areas. With the support of donations from viewers, we hope to expand into more cities soon. This is especially essential given Iowa’s importance in the 2020 presidential primaries and general election.”
With the addition of Sioux City, Locast said it now provides a public service in 17 U.S. cities, reaching more than 41 million viewers.
Locast does not charge fees for its service, but it does ask for donations to help fund its continued expansion into new markets. The company operates for free under a copyright statute that allows non-profit translator services to rebroadcast local stations without receiving a copyright license from the broadcaster.
However, Locast has drawn the attention of major broadcasters including ABC, CBS, Fox and NBCU, all of which last summer filed a lawsuit asking the court to prohibit Locast from operating its service, and to award damages connected to Locast’s operations.
The lawsuit contends that Locast is not merely boosting broadcast signals for those who can’t receive them. It accuses Locast of operating with its own commercial benefit in mind as well as the commercial benefit of large pay TV operators including DirecTV and Dish Network.
“Locast is not the Robin Hood of television; instead, Locast’s founding, funding, and operations reveal its decidedly commercial purposes,” the lawsuit reads.
In September, Locast countersued and accused the big four broadcasters of using their market power to prevent distributors and other platforms from partnering with Locast.