Locast is a non-profit online streaming company that takes an over the air antenna signal and rebroadcasts it over the internet. It is an interesting concept and was tried years ago by a company called Aereo. The government shut it down due to copyright issues. Locast gets around this by accepting donations. You can donate 5 dollars a month and get commercial-free service. If you don’t donate, your viewing will be interrupted with a commercial asking for donations. The channel line up is small consisting mostly of local channels in your area. I was able to test it out while I was on vacation. I streamed shows on my iPad and laptop. It was somewhat convenient because the cottage we rented did not have a television in the bedroom. We used the Locast app on the iPad to watch some night time television shows. This service has promise if they can work out some bugs.
Locast.org is a “digital translator,” meaning that Locast.org operates just like a traditional broadcast translator service, except instead of using an over the air signal to boost a broadcaster’s reach, they stream the signal over the Internet to consumers located within select US cities.
Locast is currently available in 13 cities and requires an internet connection. To use the service just create an account using an email and password or login in using Facebook. Locast will geo-locate your location to broadcast the closet city in your area. If you try to watch a stream from a different city, a message will tell you this is not allowed.
Locast works on most major streaming platforms and the app is available to download. It will also work on a laptop or computer through a web browser.
Locast streams broadcast television, so the channels available are local broadcast stations from the major city in your area. Common channels may include NBC, ABC, CBS, PBS, FOX, my TV, CW, and a few Spanish language channels.
The user interface is easy to use. It is set up in a grid format with the channels and showtimes. There is a brief description of each show when highlighted.
To stream, a show just click on the watch now button. You can bounce between different channels. It does take a little time to switch between channels. The stream is of good quality and looks good on both full and small screens.
Locast will work without paying for a donation, but after a while commercials asking for donations will pop up and bump you out of your program and back to the channel screen. You basically get 15 minutes of viewing between donation commercials. So the only real way to use the service is to pay the $5 a month fee. They accept payment through PayPal or major credit cards. AT&T donated $500,000 to Locast to help continue its cause.
There have been several complaints from consumers who made a donation and are still getting nagging commercials for donations. According to the web site if you make a donation you should have ad-free viewing. It seems that they are having issues with some accounts. They do recommend sending them an email if you are experiencing this issue.
Shortly after writing this article I became aware that some of the major networks are suing Locast for copyright infringement. We will see how long this streaming service will last. Locast says they are operating in compliance with the law. We will have to wait and see what the courts say.
Locast is an interesting idea. If they can work out some of the bugs, it might be a good solution for those having trouble receiving over the air broadcast television with an antenna. This could work best if you are having trouble dialing in certain stations or live in a rural area. This service has potential but they may want to reconsider their aggressive advertising model. Perhaps they could implement a free trial for a few weeks and then charge 5 dollars a month. That way people could test the service and if they like it pay the monthly donation.