Free broadcast TV app Locast launches in Seattle

Locast’s market expansion, now including Seattle, is happening as the company faces a legal challenge from the major U.S. broadcasters. (Pixabay)

Locast, a free app for streaming local broadcast channels, has added Seattle to the list of U.S. markets that it serves.

Consumers in the Seattle-Tacoma designated market area (DMA), along with 15 other markets across the country, can use the Locast app or to watch local broadcast TV news, weather, emergency, and public interest programming. The addition of Seattle comes roughly two weeks after Locast added Atlanta and Phoenix to the list of markets it serves.

“Seattle residents understand the importance of local weather and emergency broadcast information,” said David Goodfriend, founder of Locast, in a statement. “Seattle also is a tech-savvy community that appreciates how online and wireless platforms can enhance the availability of critical weather and safety information provided by traditional local broadcasters in the public interest.”

Locast is also available in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Houston, Dallas, Boston, Denver, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and in Sioux Falls and Rapid City in South Dakota.

RELATED: Locast countersues broadcasters, accuses them of colluding against it

Locast’s market expansion is happening as the company faces a legal challenge from the major U.S. broadcasters. Locast relies on a statute within the Copyright Act that allows a non-profit organization to retransmit local broadcast signals without paying licensing fees to broadcasters. The organization is a non-profit, but it asks its users for donations to help cover costs. Earlier this year Locast received a $500,000 donation from AT&T, which said the money was intended to assist Locast in its “mission to make free broadcast content available to consumers and offer them more choice” by serving as a signal booster and alternative means of accessing broadcast stations.

But the broadcasters’ 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.

RELATED: AT&T backs free broadcast TV service Locast with $500K donation

“Locast is not the Robin Hood of television; instead, Locast’s founding, funding, and operations reveal its decidedly commercial purposes,” the lawsuit reads.

Locast last month filed a countersuit against the broadcasters and accused them of colluding against it. The organization claims that the big four broadcasters are using their market power to prevent distributors and other platforms from partnering with Locast. The company cited YouTube TV as a specific example. According to the complaint, Google told Locast that the big four broadcasters said they would punish Google if the company provided access to Locast on its streaming TV service.