Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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Locast is the free broadcast TV streamer you’ve never heard of

In the New York Times, Edmund Lee has a fascinating look at Locast, a company that’s streaming broadcast TV over the Internet for free, thanks to a potential loophole: it’s structured as a non-profit.

Once plucked from the ether, the content is piped through the internet and assembled into an app called Locast. It’s a streaming service, and it makes all of this network programming available to subscribers in ways that are more convenient than relying on a home antenna: It’s viewable on almost any device, at any time, in pristine quality that doesn’t cut in and out. It’s also completely free.

As the article points out, Locast is very similar to a previous effort in this space, Aereo, which ultimately lost a Supreme Court case and was shut down.1 But Locast is free to sign up for and use, taking only voluntary donations.

Much of the article is a profile of Locast’s creator, David Goodfriend, who not only served in the Clinton administration but was legal counsel to the FCC. Goodfriend seems confident that Locast is in the clear, and, as the piece puts it, is basically daring the network to sue him.

I’m surprised this is the first I’ve heard of this service, but as the article points out, that low profile nature is a benefit to the broadcasters who clearly don’t want users flocking there. I installed the app and created an account and, sure enough, I was streaming our local PBS station within seconds in great quality. There’s even caption support.

There doesn’t appear to be an Apple TV native app yet, but it does support AirPlay. (And, in one major difference from Aereo, there doesn’t seem to be any recording feature, which no doubt would potentially increase the chances that Locast might find itself in trouble.)

In particular, I loved this part:

“I ask people all the time, ‘Do you know you’re supposed to get television for free?’” Mr. Goodfriend said during an interview in Central Park, gesturing to a gaggle of visitors. “Most people under 50 don’t get it.”

Exactly. I mean, I’ve got a digital antenna hooked up to my TV, but I only plug it in when there’s a particular event we want to watch. I’d much prefer to have it available as an app on my Apple TV.

  1. I was an early subscriber! It was pretty cool. 
—Linked by Dan Moren

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