Locast is a not-for-profit streaming television service that allowed users to view live streams of local over-the-air television stations in many areas of the United States. Currently, there are no alternatives to Locast. It was the only service offering all local channels, including the major networks NBC, ABC, CBS, and Fox. Since the service has run into legal troubles, its future is in doubt.
The major networks have filed a lawsuit for copyright infringement against Locast. If they win, Locast will be shut down, much like Aereo, which used to offer a similar service. In 2014, the United States Supreme Court ruled that Aereo infringed upon the rights of copyright holders. Locast claims its service is legal because of an exception in copyright law:
Any “non-profit organization” could make a “secondary transmission” of a local broadcast signal, provided the non-profit did not receive any “direct or indirect commercial advantage” and either offered the signal for free or for a fee “necessary to defray the actual and reasonable costs” of providing the service. 17 U.S.C. 111(a)(5).
If Locast wins this case, similar services using a similar model will likely come into existence. However, that is now in doubt after they suspended their service due to an unfavorable legal ruling. If they lose, there might still be an alternative on the way. That possible alternative is called LocalBTV.
We want to make it as easy as possible for people to get local stations so they can stay connected to the community, stay on top of important local issues and take advantage of everything living in their community has to offer!
— LocalBTV FAQ
What Is LocalBTV?
LocalBTV is a streaming service that offers local TV stations in the markets it serves. As I write this, it is available in thirteen markets: Indianapolis, Phoenix, Philadelphia, Chicago, Atlanta, Louisville, New York City, Las Vegas, San Francisco Bay Area, San Diego, Southern California, California Central Coast, and Fresno. Like with Locast, due to licensing and copyright issues, you must live within a particular television market to get access. LocalBTV plans to expand to more markets.
LocalBTV only offers channels it is authorized to offer, which means it hasn't run into legal difficulties like Locast and Aereo. That also means it doesn't offer the major networks. However, according to their FAQ, they do have a plan to offer them:
"Other stations such as the major networks (ABC, NBC, etc) will be available in the future."
LocalBTV is free, but they have plans to add a paid Premium version.
"The free version has 25 or more channels, but when we release our paid premium version you’ll get more than 50 local stations including the major network stations."
Unfortunately, LocalBTV hasn't provided any timetable for when this Premium version may become available.
"LocalBTV does not currently include major national network programming. We expect all of the 70-100+ local broadcast channels in each market to be available in the future."
LocalBTV only serves thirteen markets (versus 36 for Locast), but they have plans to expand to other markets.
"LocalBTV is available in 13 US markets with more coming soon!"
LocalBTV versus Locast
Locast required a $5 a month donation to get uninterrupted viewing. If LocalBTV strikes a deal to offer the major networks, it's unlikely their Premium option will be that inexpensive. However, paying more may be worth it for many customers because LocalBTV offers a DVR. Locast customers have to use external services like Stremium to record programming. But that's an extra $5 a month in addition to the $5 donation. LocalBTV's built-in DVR is very convenient in comparison. The channel guide has two weeks of program information and the DVR comes with 1TB of storage, enough to store 300 hours of programming.
In addition to the DVR, LocalBTV has some other great features. One is the customizable channel guide. Simply uncheck channels you don't want to see in the guide. Other features include closed captioning, and the ability to pause, rewind, and fast-forward. The LocalBTV app is available for Apple TV, Fire TV, and Roku.
LocalBTV isn't a viable alternative to Locast just yet because it doesn't offer the major networks and it's only available in a small fraction of US television markets. However, if their plans to expand into more markets with access to the major networks come to fruition, they will serve as a much-needed means to affordably access local stations.
Right now, Didja Inc. the company offering LocalBTV services hasn't provided any information on when its Premium version with the major networks might become available or what it may cost. However, if you live in one of the markets it currently operates in, the free version is worth checking out. In my area, I get local news and access to PBS stations. LocalBTV in my area also offers Asian language stations and stations aimed at Spanish-speaking audiences.
Will LocalBTV Be a Possible Alternative to Locast?
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2021 LT Wright