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Locast Expands to Tri-Cities to Reach 32 Markets

Jason Gurwin

Locast, the non-profit streaming service, that offers local channels over the internet, added their 32nd market: Tri-Cities, TN-VA.

Locast delivers 27 local TV channels in the Tri-Cities designated market area (DMA), including WCYB NBC 5, WEMT FOX 39, WJHL ABC/CBS 11, as well as DABL, Antenna, CourtTV, Mystery, MeTV, TrueCrime, the CW, Grio, BOUNCE, Quest, LAFF, COMET, ION, GRIT, Charge!, and more.

Locast is accessible to viewers in 19 counties in the Tri-Cities DMA including Leslie and Letcher counties in Kentucky; Carter, Greene, Hawkins, Johnson, Sullivan, Unicoi, and Washington counties in Tennessee; and Bristol City, Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Norton City, Russell, Scott, Smyth, Washington, and Wise counties in Virginia.

Locast collaborated with municipally-owned utility provider Bristol Tennessee Essential Services (BTES) for the location of the Locast data server. BTES is an electric utility that also provides an advanced fiber optic network that supports its electric system and offers Internet, telephone and cable TV services.

While the service is technically free, it is more or less unusable unless you donate $5.50 monthly for access to your channels. Without a donation, your stream stops every 15 minutes.

Earlier this year, Locast announced that they now have 2.6 million registered users in total.

“Our mission is clear: to increase accessibility and availability of free over-the-air broadcasts via the internet,” said consumer advocate David Goodfriend, chairman and founder of the nonprofit Locast. “The fast pace of our growth shows that for millions of Americans, reliable, affordable, and accessible local broadcast programming has been out of reach until now.”

Locast is now available in 32 markets reaching nearly half of the U.S. population. In 2020, Locast launched in Puerto Rico, Florida, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Indianapolis markets, among others.

The 32 markets carrying the service are:

  • Atlanta
  • Baltimore
  • Boston
  • Charlotte
  • Chicago
  • Cleveland
  • Dallas
  • Denver
  • Detroit
  • Houston
  • Indianpolis
  • Los Angeles
  • Madison
  • Miami
  • Minneapolis
  • New York
  • Orlando
  • Philadelphia
  • Portland
  • Phoenix
  • Puerto Rico
  • Rapid City
  • Sacramento
  • San Francisco
  • Scranto
  • Seattle
  • Sioux City
  • Sioux Falls
  • Tampa Bay
  • Tri-Cities
  • Washington DC
  • West Palm Beach

Since July 2019, 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, 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.

Locast says that a trial may occur in the second half of the year.

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