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Locast Continues Growing as the Service Launches in Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Clearwater

Stephanie Sengwe

Over the course of the year, Locast has expanded its reach, giving viewers across the nation access to local broadcasts for free. The non-profit remains on its streak as they announced the service is now available in three cities in Florida — Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater — offering more than three million residents 45 local TV channels for free.

The announcement coincides with the beginning of hurricane season and Locast works as an additional resource for residents who want to stay up-to-date with the latest information. Locast will also help locals keep track of further coronavirus outbreaks or closures as beaches and some establishments re-open.

“For the first time, Floridians located anywhere within the Tampa DMA will be able to watch all of their local TV stations on their phones, tablets, laptops or streaming media devices,” said Locast founder and chairman David Goodfriend in statement. “Local TV news provides the most up-to-date emergency and disaster information, and it broadcasts critical alerts about hurricanes and coronavirus-related restrictions. As long as local TV stations continue to broadcast during major storms, Locast will remain a lifeline to those living within the Tampa metro area.”

Locast offers the following channels for Tampa viewers: ABC 28/40, NBC 8, CBS 10, FOX 13, PBS, PBS Kids, Telemundo, The Florida Channel, Univision, Telexitos, MOVIES!, Estrella TV, Azteca America, MyNetworkTV, CourtTV, Mystery, Justice Network, The CW and more. A complete local TV guide is available at www.locast.org.

Including the Tampa market, Locast is now available in 19 U.S. TV markets and has more than one million users, including people who can’t get local channels through an antenna or can’t afford a pay-TV subscription.

In April, Locast announced they launched in Puerto Rico, delivering a dozen local TV channels across the island, giving residents access to local news, weather and storm coverage, emergency information, sports and entertainment programming via internet-connected devices. The service also features multi-language support and allows for Spanish-language access to the Locast app’s user-interface, log-in screens and program guide.

Although they have seen major growth over the course of the last year, Locast has had some legal issues.

Since last July, Locast has been battling ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox, which 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, which has since closed, had 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.

Since then, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has joined the defense team of Locast as co-counsel alongside law firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe. EFF has a long history fighting copyright abuse and defending innovation that benefits the public. Broadcast giants, which already reap billions from charging users for programming, are attempting to use their copyrights to maintain market power and force consumers to pay for programming that’s supposed to be free.