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.

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 May 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. Cleveland
  7. Dallas
  8. Denver
  9. Detroit
  10. Houston
  11. Indianapolis
  12. Los Angeles
  13. Madison, Wisconsin
  14. Miami
  15. Minneapolis
  16. New York
  17. Orlando
  18. Philadelphia
  19. Phoenix
  20. Portland
  21. Puerto Rico
  22. Rapid City, South Dakota
  23. Sacramento
  24. San Francisco
  25. Scranton, Pennsylvania
  26. Seattle
  27. Sioux City, Iowa
  28. Sioux Falls, South Dakota
  29. Tampa Bay
  30. Tri-Cities (TN, KY, VA border)
  31. Washington, DC
  32. 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:

11 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.

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