Locast Review: 6 Things to Know Before You Sign Up in 2021

If you want to watch broadcast TV but don’t have an antenna, you need to know about a non-profit service called Locast.

This is a free live streaming TV service for local channels, but there’s a catch. 

In this article and the video below, I’ll share everything you need to know before you sign up for Locast. Let’s get started!

1. What Is Locast?

Locast.org is a non-profit live TV streaming service. It launched in 2018 and has more than two million registered users, according to a spokesperson. 

Locast puts up antennas in select cities, collects over-the-air signals and then streams them over the internet for your viewing pleasure. 

It provides the channels that you would get with an antenna: ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and more.

I see Locast as a solution for people who live in areas where an indoor or outdoor antenna won’t pick up local stations. 

2. How Does Locast Work? 

If you’ve tried a live TV streaming service like YouTube TV, Hulu Live or Sling TV in the past, you’ll be able to figure out Locast quickly. It’s very simple and easy to use. 

To start streaming TV, follow these steps:

  • Register at Locast.org
  • Verify your email address
  • Enter an activation code

With Locast, you’ll be able to stream on your phone, computer or to a TV with a connected device like a Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV or Google Chromecast. 

Locust features a live guide, but there is no DVR or on-demand section. 

When you find something that you want to watch, select it from the live guide and click the “Watch Now” button. The stream will start within a second or two.

You can stream Locast on up to four devices at the same time.

UPDATE: In June 2021, Locast added several new features. You can now have up to seven user profiles on a single account, favorite channels for easier navigation and activate closed captioning for subtitles.

3. Is Locast Free?

Locast is technically free, but the user experience is better if you make a monthly donation. 

When you’re streaming the free version of Locast, a donation request will cut off live programming every 15 minutes and take you back to the live guide. 

To stop these interruptions, you can give a donation of $5 per month, plus a $0.50 processing fee — so $5.50 total. 

From my testing, the ads are highly disruptive and the donation is worth it. 

But if you only plan to stream broadcast TV occasionally, you may not be bothered by the donation requests all that much. 

As a non-profit, Locast relies on donations to offset operating costs and fund its expansion.

4. Where Can I Watch Locast?

Locast is available in more than 30 cities as of July 2021. 

If you go to Locast.org, you’ll see a map of the United States and antennas that represent where the service is available. 

Locast Cities:

  1. Atlanta
  2. Baltimore
  3. Boston
  4. Charlotte
  5. Chicago
  6. Columbus, Ohio
  7. Cleveland
  8. Dallas
  9. Denver
  10. Detroit
  11. Houston
  12. Indianapolis
  13. Los Angeles
  14. Madison, Wisconsin
  15. Miami
  16. Minneapolis
  17. New York
  18. Orlando
  19. Philadelphia
  20. Pittsburgh
  21. Phoenix
  22. Portland
  23. Puerto Rico
  24. Raleigh-Durham
  25. Rapid City, South Dakota
  26. Sacramento
  27. San Francisco
  28. Scranton, Pennsylvania
  29. Seattle
  30. Sioux City, Iowa
  31. Sioux Falls, South Dakota
  32. Tampa Bay
  33. Tri-Cities (TN, KY, VA border)
  34. Washington, DC
  35. West Palm Beach

Locast uses geolocation to determine your physical location. If you’re located outside of a market where the service is available, you won’t be able to stream. 

5. Is Locast Reliable?

I’ve spent a lot of time streaming Locast since it launched in my city in mid-2020 and haven’t had any major issues.

The picture quality isn’t always the sharpest, but it streams without buffering. 

However, one thing I noticed around the start of football season was a pop-up that warned about streaming issues when a lot of people were using the service.

I don’t remember the exact phrasing. If you saw this message, leave a comment below. 

When I reached out to Locast about this issue, I wanted to know if the streaming service would be able to meet the Big Game test. 

Here’s the reply I got:

“Over the last six months, Locast has implemented continuous improvements to expand our ability to scale dynamically with user demand, and as a result, we don’t anticipate any streaming issues during the upcoming playoff games and Super Bowl.”

Locast spokesperson

Based on my experience, I’m confident in Locast’s reliability. It has surpassed my expectations for a free or $5 a month streaming service.

That said, I know that I can always sign up for a paid service if there’s an outage. 

Locast is being sued by ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC. The major networks claim that the service violates copyright laws. 

Locast disputes that claim and has filed a counter-suit.  

When I spoke by phone with Locast founder David Goodfriend, he told me the service is operating legally under copyright law. 

Here’s a quote from a news release that Locast put out in 2020: 

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.

I’ve also reached out to all of the major networks. CBS is the only network that responded, and a company spokesperson gave me a “no comment.” 

COVID has delayed the lawsuit, which was filed in 2019. It could go to trial in 2021.

In the meantime, Locast says that it plans to continue to operate normally and expand to new cities while the legal process plays out. 

Final Thoughts 

If you can use an indoor or outdoor antenna, you’ll get a lifetime of over-the-air TV. That’s the ultimate way to watch local channels for free.

But antennas don’t work everywhere — and that’s where Locast comes in. 

Even with the $5.50 a month donation, I think it’s worth it for people who watch a lot of broadcast TV. 

Think about it this way:

  • Some cable TV companies charge a broadcast TV fee that’s up to $15 a month or $180 a year.
  • With a $5.50 a month donation for Locast, it’s only $66 a year. 

I think Locast makes a lot of sense for people who use Sling TV, which doesn’t have all of the local stations like YouTube TV and Hulu Live. 

If you’ve tried out the service, let me know what you think about it in the comments below!

More Michael Saves Streaming TV Content:

23 thoughts on “Locast Review: 6 Things to Know Before You Sign Up in 2021”

  1. I am trying Locast and found ION plus is all over sudden missing.
    Could that just continue that this or that station goes off line?

  2. I signed up for Locast this week. I’m trying to convince my husband to get rid of AT&T TV (formerly DirecTVNow) but he insists on local channels and despite living just outside city limits, we can’t get reliable OTA channels via antenna. AT&T is increasing our fee again next month despite never improving our service. We signed up when it was still DirecTV Now and we were promised that our 20 hours of DVR storage would increase after beta testing. Never happened and it’s been 5 years and our subscription price has increased 275%.

    I was hoping to preview Locast to convince him to switch to Locast and Philo for our favorite “cable” channels. It seemed to work great the first day but when I tried to show my husband the next day, the broadcast was interrupted 4 times in less than 2 minutes, jumping back to the guide. The guide requires multiple steps to tune in your program again. I tried again on Saturday and was only interrupted about every 10-15 minutes but these interruptions don’t coincide with regular commercials and kick you back out to the guide, meaning you miss at least a couple of minutes of the program every time.

    I don’t mind the $5 donation but I’ve seen mixed reviews about whether these interruptions cease with donation. I’d rather have a good preview of how the service is supposed to function before I agree to a monthly donation. Especially since I saw one review from 2019 that said it was very difficult to unsubscribe. I sent a message to Locast regarding these issues before I agree to the donation.

    1. You should be able to watch about 15 minutes in between donation requests. As I wrote in the review, the donation eliminates the interruptions. It’s easy to stop the donations — just log in to your account to cancel from the settings.

  3. i like the idea of locast but find the picture quality horrible.Anything fast moving like sports are unwatchable.Maybe it just me that has these problems.Im watching on firestick ,philadelphia location.Tried it on 3 different tvs all looked bad.I quess it would would be okay on a small phone screen but not on a tv.Tv antennas in my area get horrible reception.Anybody else find the picture quality horrible?

    1. I think the picture quality isn’t as good as when I use my antenna. My antenna has the best quality picture. It’s maybe slightly worse than some streaming services, so you are not alone.

  4. I can’t use an antenna. Two many trees and mountains in the way. I decided to donate $10.50 because I want them to be successful. If they aren’t, they’ll have to start charging and you can bet it won’t be $5.50 or $10.50. So don’t cheap out on this. The cable companies charge much more for just local channels.

  5. They throw in some cloud dvr time then $5/mo isn’t a bad deal. Till then TIVO nad my anteena has better picture but can’t get all the stations locast can offer for I’m 80 miles from some low power transmitters.

  6. While Locast states that they are compatible with Safari (14.0.3), unlike Firefox, it won’t allow for geolocation even with permission granted and VPN turned off. It streams fine with iPhone (6Plus), iPad, and Roku with correct localization. Locast CSR was of no help via email.

  7. Bill McCoskey

    Signed up thru Sling and paid their $60 for the Locast module that plugs into the HDMI port. Sling never advised about the Locast ads every 15 minutes. Sling touts it as free, but we discovered there is a $3 monthly fee. Apparently that $3 fee goes to Sling, as we still get the Locast ads asking for the $5 donation. And by the way, after each $5 Locast donation request, the ads don’t go away, it just freezes. To go back to the original program requires us to use the back button, then when we get the grid screen again, we have to choose the program we were watching, then after that show is offered, we have to AGAIN choose the program. Then we have to watch ANOTHER ad requesting the $5 donation. After this last donation ad, we FINALLY get the original programming, but we lose 1 to 2 minutes of live programming. We cannot go back to see what we lost. All this to go back to the original show.

    We have tried to get answers to the above problems, we’ve called Sling customer service multiple times, but have never been able to get thru to a live person. I’m pretty sure we will be going online to cancel. Will probably go directly to Locast & pay the $5.50. It’s worth it.

      1. Hi, yes i am experiencing the same just opened up a ticket to locast because i just donated $5 and after 15 min it goes back to choose a program and i have to go back and choose the channel i was in. Is this normal? i have 3 t.v’s under the same subscription and wanted to give it a chance since i dont want to have antennas. Michael any recommendations? as i can relate to bill comments on the t.v freezing every 15 min.

  8. We’ve been using Locast for 3 months. We tried the free version first and the interruptions asking for donations was irritating to the max. However, we could see that it was providing tons of stations. We quickly decided to donate and, on the whole, we’re quite pleased with the reception and selection. One inconvenience is that each time you want to change channels it drops you back to the beginning of the channel guide list so you have to start over in your search. But remember you’re only paying $5.50 per month. We’ve had a few times that the picture freezes but not many. I understand that problem may be due to a full cache so I’m going to go into my Fire Stick apps to the Locast app and empty the cache. That may solve the problem. We are in the Cleveland OH viewing area but we’re about 60 miles away. This sure beats paying many hundreds of dollars for a tv tower.

  9. I had to add locast because DirecTV dropped my local channels 8 & 23 and an antenna was not reliable.
    I was immediately pleased when I signed up for locast months ago being able to get not only channels 8 & 23 again but also the sub channels of the other major networks totalling 40+ available channels.
    However, today may 27, only the major networks (ABC,NBC,CBS,FOX) main channels are working and nothing else.
    Contact locast and submitted a ticket but I haven’t received a reply from them yet.

  10. I am in the tri city area Tennessee. I just loaded the apt this weekend and felt the picture was good. I watched sports and regular programs. I am in the smokey mountains so antennas is a no go. Still testing it out but if the donation ads go away when you pay. I think I will give it a go in the near future. So not sure but if you internet is slow that may effect your picture. Mine is good 👍 picture is fine.

  11. I am trying this locast out with the 5.00 donation monthly. My friend told me about this! I was happy to see my local news and found old CSI Miami movie. lol I took my cable off because I was already at 275.00 monthly which was ridiculous for a single mom. I am just so happy with the local news and some spanish movies currently view. Don’t watch tv everyday but maybe two hours three time per week but all day on Sunday. 🙂 LOCAST please don’t go anywhere. 🙂

  12. We found an alternative, if you have Amazon Prime, there is a free news alternative called “Very Local”. We get our local Baltimore news thru it.

    1. thank u!

      used locast for 18 months – but quality is worse and worse and freezes mid frame but the audio keeps going.

      Cleared cache, install/uninstall/reinstall, 1GB/S internet

      Only used to watch Shark Tank on ABC on Friday nights, and locast seems to struggle with a clear signal from ABC

      Oh well, if I wait a week I can watch from ABC app.

      Dont really like how locast says they’re free to get around some legalities, but then they make it unusable without the “donation”

      Will check out “very local” next time i have some time to watch some TV!

      thanks again for suggestion

  13. Installed Locast as soon as it became available in the Raleigh Durham area (antenna reception is impossible where I live – I’ve tried for 30 years! The service is wonderful! My only doubt is that the Networks will use their influence and money to lobby the courts to rule against Locast and then I’m back to square 1 – Spectrum TV with a minimum monthly payment of $120!

  14. Wolfman Slick

    I wanted to try out the service for 1 show (WGN Morning News) that I watch but do not have. It let me watch for 15 minutes before telling me I use it too much and need to donate, hardly a fair test run. I can get the channel for free on the internet so I am staying with that.

    1. Yes, I explain that in the article. You can continue watching, but those interruptions are every 15 minutes. I think your workaround of watching the livestream online is a good one!

  15. I live in a woodsy area 100 miles from the Seattle. The trees kept growing until I lost all my satellite coverage. Signed up for Locast (with Roku) and couldn’t be happier. Great signal, and no problems whatsoever. Get all the Seattle stations perfectly. Cancelled my satellite service and, at $5.50 per month, am paying only a fraction of my former costs. PAY THE $5.50! Its definitely worth it to avoid the constant interruptions.
    (Locast will also send you a “Thank you for your donation to Locast.” notice every month to help with your personal record keeping.)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top