Locast, the free streamer of local TV channels, said it has surpassed 2.3 million registered users roughly three years after the service debuted in January 2018.
Locast, a nonprofit service that relies on monthly user donations, said it added more than 1 million users in 2020 alone, attributing the rate of growth to cord-cutters seeking relief from rising pay-TV rates and consumers who can't receive over-the-air digital TV signals.
While the pandemic has certainly caused some consumers to stay at home and drop pay-TV services during what's become a belt-tightening period for many, other industry watchers also attributed the recent gains partly to high-profile retransmission battles involving broadcasters and the two primary US satellite TV service providers – Dish Network and AT&T's DirecTV:
Would surmise the twin blackouts for DIRECTV and Dish in December significantly boosted this number. https://t.co/YaZowrHmoH— The TV Answer Man (@SwanniOnTV) January 19, 2021
Locast is free, but urges registered users to donate (starting at $5 per month) to help fund the company's operations. Locast users who don't pay a voluntary donation see a brief ad every 15 minutes encouraging them to contribute. A similar ad appears whenever a viewer changes channels.
Locast notes that a "small portion" of its registered users make voluntary contributions, yet the service achieved operational sustainability toward the end of 2020, Locast founder and chairman David Goodfriend told Light Reading in a recent interview.
In addition to becoming debt free, Locast also has enough money on hand to fund more market expansions, including a recent launch in Madison, Wisconsin, its 26th US market. Locast now estimates that it is available to about 150 million viewers, or more than 45% of the US population.
Locast's physical set-up in each of its markets typically includes the installation of a digital antenna on the roof of a building with solid access to over-the-air signals, cabling to a server room, and payment of content delivery network fees to ship out its streams.
Locast argues the Copyright Act of 1976 allows nonprofit translator services to rebroadcast local stations without receiving a copyright license from the broadcaster.
But the big four US broadcasters – ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC – don't agree. They filed a lawsuit in July 2019 contending that Locast's service violates copyright law by retransmitting signals without authorization. Locast has called the suit "objectively baseless" and "an unlawful sham," while also telling the court that some pay-TV providers identified as potential Locast donors ended up pulling back because of intimidation by broadcasters.
Another non-profit group, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), has stepped in to help Locast cover its legal costs.
The case could go to trial in the second half of 2021. Meanwhile, Locast says it's confident it will win as it makes plans to reach all 210 US markets.
- Locast debuts in Madison, Wisconsin
- Locast has achieved operational sustainability, chairman says
- US broadcasters attack Locast
- AT&T donates $500K to Locast
- Locast Needs More Than Luck to Beat the Broadcasters
- TV retrans battles heat up for the holidays
— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading