UPDATE: Locast has shut down as of September 2, 2021. In a brief statement, Locast said: “As a non-profit, Locast was designed from the very beginning to operate in accordance with the strict letter of the law, but in response to the court’s recent rulings, with which we respectfully disagree, we are hereby suspending operations, effective immediately.”
If you want to watch broadcast TV but don’t have an antenna, you may have heard about a non-profit service called Locast.
This is a free live streaming TV service for local channels, but its future is in question.
1. What Is Locast?
It provides the channels that you would get with an antenna: ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and more.
Locast has been a solution for people who live in areas where an indoor or outdoor antenna won’t pick up local stations.
2. Is Locast Legal?
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.
A court dealt Locast a major setback in August 2021. A federal judge ruled against Locast on its copyright defense, which means the case could go to trial.
Locast said it’s disappointed in the ruling and is exploring future steps.
It emailed users the following explanation:
“As you probably know, the federal district court in the Southern District of New York issued a ruling in the case brought against Locast by the big media companies. The court concluded that by interrupting programming to ask users for donations, and by suspending those interruptions based on whether a user makes contributions, Locast actually was charging a fee, not merely seeking a voluntary contribution. The court then concluded that revenues Locast collects in this manner exceed the cost of operating the service because funds are used to add new markets, rendering Locast ineligible to use the copyright exemption for non-profits (17 U.S.C. 111(a)(5)).”
3. Is Locast Free?
Locast has always operated as a free service, but it accepts donations from users.
Following a court ruling against Locast, the service suspended all programming interruptions to request donations on September 1, 2021.
Previously, donation requests cut off live programming every 15 minutes.
To stop these interruptions, you could give a donation of $5 per month, plus a $0.50 processing fee — so $5.50 total.
Although programming interruptions have now stopped for all users, Locast continues to take donations.
4. Where Can I Watch Locast?
Locast is available in more than 35 cities as of September 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.
- Columbus, Ohio
- Los Angeles
- Madison, Wisconsin
- New York
- Puerto Rico
- Rapid City, South Dakota
- San Francisco
- Scranton, Pennsylvania
- Sioux City, Iowa
- Sioux Falls, South Dakota
- Tampa Bay
- Tri-Cities (TN, KY, VA border)
- Washington, DC
- 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 in 2020 was a pop-up that warned about streaming issues when a lot of people were using the service.
Locast told me that it made improvements to the service to meet user demand.
Based on my experience, I’m confident in Locast’s streaming 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.
6. How Does Locast Work?
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.
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.
But given the legal challenge, I’m afraid Locast may not be around for much longer.
39 thoughts on “Locast Review: 6 Things to Know Before You Sign Up in 2021”
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?
The new owners of Ion Plus ended over-the-air carriage of the network for a new business plan on that day, so its out of your and their control…it’s still available on Vizio and Samsung smart TV’s.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
I like Marco made my donation $10.50 for the same reason.I have Sling and do not get OTA stations.I live in a mobile home campground year round and the antenna I bought does NOT work for the Big four stations.So far I have not had any trouble with Locast,And the picture quality is excellent.I sure hope and pray they win their lawsuit agains the Big four.
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.
Is there any way to get service from out of the service area? I’m just over the line of Phil, PA.
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.
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.
I’m not sure exactly what you’re talking about. Are you using AirTV? I use Sling TV and Locast, but Locast I donate $5.50. I don’t know anything about a $3 charge.
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.
I haven’t experienced this. I think you’ve done the right thing by filing a ticket.
I got an ad on my Sling account,but didn’t go thru Sling.I got the app from Amazon,and then went to the Locast.com site and have no issue with Sling and guess what I just found out last night that all the channels on Locast are on my Sling guide!
Yes Sling TV has Locast integration with Fire TV devices and some others.
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.
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.
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.
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. 🙂
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.
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
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!
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.
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!
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.)
I’ve been using Locast for two days without a donation. I work from home and like to have the TV on in the background to keep me company. I have yet in a 8-9 hour shift see any sort of interruption for an advert to subscribe/donate. Is there some sort of period of time before these ads start?
Yes usually you get like 2 hours of no interruptions your first time, but then it’s every 15 minutes — so quite noticeable.
Once the Olympics started last werk, every channel buffers, and there are frequent episodes where the stream just stops. Now, a message pops up that the technical team is aware there are Intermittent Signal Issues in Indianapolis, Indiana. They are supposedly working on it for the past week. The issue is not resolved, and the Olympics are almost over with. Sling Blue now uses Locast to broadcast its local channels.
This service is a crock in my opinion, and yes I donate every month.
Just to be clear, Sling TV integrates Locast into its live guide since Sling doesn’t offer all local stations. They’re doing it to make the user experience more convenient. Sling and Locast operate separately.
Hello. I’m disappointed with Locast service in the Bay Area.
Seems like 3 or 4 times a week I send reports that KTVU Channel 2 video and audio is out of sync. I too donate every month.
It’s really frustrating when I want to watch Hell’s Kitchen and the news.
I have used Locast several times and decided to pay the donation to get it ad free as Sling only gives me Fox and NBC. Since I did this, now my Fox and NBC are no longer in my Sling guide. Also now, my Sling guide is about 2 hrs behind and I cannot get it to stay at the correct time. My roku has the correct time. I find nowhere that I can fix this, and must be related to the Locast use and subscripion. I use Roku and the Sling/Locast integration isn’t avail yet. Not happy, may have to go back to Hulu which costs more. I like both Sling and Locast but this is an issue as now since NBC and Fox are not in my Sling guide, I cannot record any programs from those channels.
You should contact Sling’s customer service if they have removed channels that you previously received. They have an 800 number or chat. I do not have an explanation for this issue.
I’m not entirely happy. We just got Locast and I’ve used it a few times and half the time quality of transmission was so bad I couldn’t understand what was going on. PBS 11 out of Chicago just 40 miles away was so pixelated the last hour that I could t watch Frontline. Is this really good? I’ve tried cheap antennae and I’ve had this and better.
Locast isn’t free to watch, unless you like having the shows or movies you are watching to be stopped every 15 minutes. Otherwise you have to pay a donation to keep what you are watching from being interrupted every 15 minutes. Plus there are plenty of channels not worth watching. So, it’s better to just buy an antenna to watch local and other watchable channels.
Yes, I included this information in the article as well. It’s technically free, but as you point out, you must donate to eliminate ads. An antenna is the best way for free TV, but it’s not an option for everyone.
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Locast got sued and lost. Why? Because they got greedy and cocky. Interrupting the stream every 15 minutes and then kicking you back to the channel guide when you don’t donate is what did them in. Basically that was a form of extortion and coercion, that’s why they lost the damn lawsuit. If they just had a “donate button” and did not interrupt the stream in such an obnoxious manner they may have won the lawsuit. It also looks like when they took donations from AT&T that also did them in. Set Up? It surely looks that way. The same corporations that own the big broadcasters most likely own AT&T as well. Bottom line is don’t claim to be a non profit and then attempt to coerce donations from viewers using some pretty obnoxious and annoying tactics.