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Locast Brings Its Free Local Channels to Iowa

Stephanie Sengwe

Despite being entangled in a legal battle with ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox since last summer, Locast has continued growing its service. The the non-profit digital translator service is now streaming 20 local TV channels in Sioux City, Iowa.

Viewers in the Sioux City area now have free access to local news, weather, emergency information, sports and entertainment programming available on broadcast TV, as well as locally produced broadcast TV through the Locast app or at www.locast.org. Channels included are KCAU ABC 9, KTIV NBC 4, KPTH FOX 44/KMEG, CBS 14, KUSD PBS, ION, LAFF, BOUNCE, DABL, Stadium, TBD., Comet, MeTV, The CW, Charge!, Court TV Mystery, Escape, PBS Kids, PBS World, and PBS Create.

Locast is now available in 17 U.S. cities with more than 41 million viewers. In June, Locast became available in the west, giving viewers in San Francisco and Los Angeles access to major locals like ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, The CW and MyNetworkTV, as well as PBS, PBS Kids and other OTA channels like Cozi and MeTV.

In October, the service expanded to Atlanta and Phoenix, as well as Seattle.

Since July, Locast has been battling ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox that claim the service is in violation of copyright laws. In their lawsuit, the networks argue that when Locast retransmits their signals, it strips out vital information including Nielsen codes that are used to measure ratings. In addition, the networks also claim that if Locast is truly a nonprofit, and not helping AT&T and Dish, then there is no reason to require registration or gather its own consumer data — both of which Locast currently does.

In a countersuit filed in September, Locast accused ABC, NBC, Fox and CBS of collusion. Locast claimed the networks interfered in a potential partnership with YouTube TV by disallowing it to provide access or Google would be “punished by the big four broadcasters.” The broadcasters — which own cable channels such as ESPN, Bravo, Fox News and Showtime — could band together and pressure Google as well as other pay-TV operators by refusing to sell their cable channels, Locast suggested.

In December, Locast launched its Legal Defense Fund on GoFundMe asking supporters to donate money that would pay for litigation fees. The campaign has four donation tiers — Locast Nation, those who donate $5 - $25; Friend, those who donate $100; Champion, those who donate $1,000; and Winner’s Circle for contributors who donate $50,000 or more. Thus far, the campaign has raised $112,656 of its $500,000 goal.