Several years after the questionable SCOTUS smackdown of Aereo, upstart Locast is similarly attempting to stream antenna television… to those who may not have reception or prefer to watch on something other than a television. Unlike the for-profit model of Aereo, which provided live television with DVR capabilities to customers via rented regional micro-antennas, Locast is a non-profit that pitches its more simplistic, straight-up streaming service as legal retransmission.
Ever since the dawn of TV broadcasting in the mid-20th Century, non-profit organizations have provided “translator” TV stations as a public service. Where a primary broadcaster cannot reach a receiver with a strong enough signal, the translator amplifies that signal with another transmitter, allowing consumers who otherwise could not get the over-the-air signal to receive important programming, including local news, weather and of course, sports. Locast.org provides the same public service, except instead of an over-the-air signal transmitter, we provide the local broadcast signal via online streaming.
Look, I can’t tell you if it’s legal. And it may not even matter. As the studio system can make life exceedingly difficult and expensive, should they take issue. Given the large sums of retransmission money negotiated from cable, satellite, and streaming services, the threat of legal action certainly seems like a clear and present danger. But “the system” can also apply pressure in other ways — much as we saw Amazon encouraged to remove the HDHomeRun app from its app store this week.
Anyhow, go ahead and check Locast out while the going is good – streaming in 10 markets, including my recently added Washington, DC metro. Video can be accessed via web browser, iOS, Android, Roku, and now Fire TVs. Prepare for so-so quality and incessant solicitation for donations. Which isn’t entirely unreasonable given operating expenses and the pain that is likely coming their way.