TRI-CITIES, Tenn. – Locast, America's only nonprofit, free, local broadcast TV digital translator streaming service, is now delivering more than two dozen local TV channels via the internet – for free – to the nearly 700,000 residents living in the Tri-Cities, which reaches the northeastern Tennessee cities of Bristol, Johnson City, and Kingsport, as well as the surrounding rural area bordering Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia. The Tri-Cities is the 32nd Locast market.
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.
"BTES is a municipal-owned utility that has communication services available to more than 33,000 customers in a 280-square-mile service area in the City of Bristol and Sullivan County, Tennessee. We're pleased to assist Locast in its not-for-profit mission of delivering local TV channels via the Internet to those who cannot afford pay TV or cannot receive an over-the-air signal due to the topography found in northeastern Tennessee," said Mike Browder, CEO of BTES.
As a nonprofit, Locast provides a critical public service by increasing access to important local news, storm coverage, emergency information, COVID health and safety updates, election coverage, sports, and entertainment programming on the go, over the internet, on any device. So-called "cord cutters," who cancel their increasingly expensive pay-TV subscriptions, and "cord-nevers," who have never subscribed to pay-TV services, represent a significant proportion of Locast users. For those who cannot afford pay TV or cannot receive an over-the-air signal, Locast is often their only link to local broadcast news, emergency information, weather, sports, and entertainment.
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 was started by consumer advocate David Goodfriend, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney who founded the nonprofit advocacy organization, Sports Fans Coalition, in 2009. He helped lead the fight against the NFL and large media companies by petitioning the FCC to end the 40-year-old, anti-fan Sports Blackout Rule. Sports Fans Coalition won in 2014 when the FCC voted unanimously to end the practice, giving fans greater access to watch their local football team. Goodfriend founded Locast in 2018 to help ensure widespread availability of local TV channels. Locast now has more than 2.6 million registered users nationwide in 32 markets – large and small – reaching more than half of the U.S. population. Compared to most streaming services, which charge fees, Locast offers free TV.
Locast operates under the Copyright Act of 1976 that allows nonprofit translator services to rebroadcast local stations without receiving a copyright license from the broadcaster. The federal statute (17 U.S.C. 111(a)(5)) states that a nonprofit organization may retransmit a local broadcast signal and collect a fee to cover the cost of operations. Locast asks viewers to donate as little as $5 per month to help cover operating costs. The donation is voluntary and not required.