Locast brings free streaming local TV service to Sacramento

(Logo: Locast, Graphic: The Desk)

Free streaming local television service Locast has finally launched in the Sacramento broadcast market.

Locast announced Sacramento as its 29th market in a press release early Friday morning.

“For the first time, residents in Sacramento and the greater metro area – including Stockton and Modesto – will be able to watch all of their local TV stations via the Internet on their phones, tablets, laptops, or streaming media devices,” Locast said in a statement.

In the Sacramento market, Locast is providing access to every major local television channel, including:

  • KCRA (Channel 3, NBC)
  • KVIE (Channel 6, PBS)
  • KXTV (Channel 10, ABC)
  • KOVR (Channel 13, CBS)
  • KUVS (Channel 19, Univision)
  • KSPX (Channel 29, Ion)
  • KMAX (Channel 31, CW)
  • KSCO (Channel 33, Telemundo)
  • KTXL (Channel 40, Fox)
  • KQCA (Channel 58, My Network)
  • KTFK (Channel 64, Unimas)

The service also distributes some fringe, independent and low-power television stations that some viewers may have trouble accessing with an antenna, especially in communities that do not fall within the immediate Sacramento area.

Locast operates in a legal gray area, exploiting a loophole in the U.S. Copyright Act that allows not-for-profit institutions to re-broadcast local, licensed stations without needing to enter into re-transmission consent agreements like those required of cable and satellite companies.

The loophole was meant to protect universities, hospitals, schools and other organizations who wanted to distribute broadcast signals received with an antenna on a limited basis. But the Copyright Act never limited its waiver to just these not-for-profits, and Locast — which operates as a not-for-profit — has tapped into the law to distribute broadcast signals over the Internet for free since early 2018.

That’s not to say its efforts have been without challenges: A consortium of broadcasters have sued Locast, seeking to shut down the service because the company doesn’t pay for the right to re-broadcast its signals. They equate Locast to a broadcast pirate. Locast says it’s service is above the law.

It has made unlikely allies with others in the television industry: AT&T recently donated $500,000 to keep Locast afloat and began distributing a version of the Locast app on its smart-connected DirecTV and AT&T TV set-top boxes. Dish Network also supports Locast on some of its set-top boxes. Both companies have repeatedly pushed customers to use Locast when local broadcast companies have blocked out their signals on those services during carriage disputes.

In addition to some satellite boxes, Locast is available on most streaming television platforms, including Apple TV, Android TV (Google TV), Amazon Fire TV and Roku. Apps are also available for Apple iOS and Android smartphones and tablets.