AT&T said this week that it will begin offering free streaming broadcast TV app Locast on both its DirecTV and U-verse pay TV platforms.
“AT&T continues to offer consumers new ways to access the video content they want. We believe Locast's public service offering will make sense for many of them,” AT&T wrote in a news release.
Locast, which launched in January 2018, streams full-power broadcast channels in a local markets to anyone with an Internet connection located within the relevant Nielsen Designated Market Area (DMA). The service is currently available to 27 million users in nine markets: New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, Washington, Houston, Boston, Denver and Baltimore. Locast said it hopes to launch in more top 20 U.S. markets in 2019.
This marks the second satellite TV operator integration for Locast. The service showed up on Dish Network earlier this year. Locast is also available for Apple TV, Android TV, iOS, Android, Roku and multiple web browsers.
AT&T said that it will continue to offer its free Local Channel Connector service, which captures stations' over-the-air digital signals with a digital broadcast antenna, and makes those channels available in the program guide. AT&T said it recently provided more than 10,000 Local Channel Connectors to Salt Lake City customers after a local NBC affiliate went dark on AT&T’s pay TV platform.
AT&T’s move to integrate Locast and provide another option for viewing local broadcast channels arrives as the company is facing increasing pressure from lawmakers over lapses in DirecTV’s local broadcast coverage.
Congress is currently debating about whether to let expire the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act Reauthorization (STELAR) legislation. STELAR contains a component that allows satellite operators to pipe in broadcast signals from other cities to serve local markets. Dish Network already got in trouble for violating this clause, and now carries local broadcast channels in all 210 TV DMAs. But, DirecTV still doesn’t carry local broadcast channels in 12 markets: Alpena, Michigan; Bowling Green, Kentucky; Casper-Riverton, Wyoming; Cheyenne, Wyoming/Scottsbluff, Nebraska; Grand Junction, Colorado; Helena, Montana; North Platte, Nebraska; Ottumwa, Iowa/Kirksville, Missouri; Presque Isle, Maine; San Angelo, Texas; Victoria, Texas; and Glendive, Montana.
U.S. Representative Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa) is the latest lawmaker to send a letter the House Energy & Commerce Committee and House Judiciary Committee, asking them to consider how STELAR impacts satellite subscribers in markets where local broadcast channels are not available on DirecTV.
“It is apparent that the existence of the distant signal license creates disincentive for DirecTV to offer my constituents the broadcast channels from their local DMA,” Loebsack wrote.