As cable and satellite TV prices have continued rising, consumers have been cutting the cord and looking for alternatives. As of 2020, about 20% of US households had left their traditional television services for internet-based options.
People are streaming Netflix and Disney+ in smart home theaters, but one thing that’s been keeping many of that other 80 % still attached to their cable tv provider or satellite subscriptions is that they still want to watch their local channels.
Services like Amazon Prime and Netflix, don’t provide access to local news or local shows on the “big 4” networks. Subscribing to multiple services can get expensive to try to get all the local channels you used to have with cable.
Local news is critical when it comes to weather events and getting up-to-date information about storms and a possible tornado or flood watches. So, this leaves many with few options, because several local stations have moved from analog to digital and are no longer accessible on those old “rabbit ears” antennas like they used to be.
If you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place of wanting to drop an expensive satellite or cable subscription but being afraid of losing your local channels and news stations, you’ll be very interested to know about a public streaming service that you may not have realized was available.
It turns out that you can have access to local TV online without having to pay for it. There is a non-profit streaming service called Locast whose mission is to bring local broadcast TV to households for free.
What is Locast?
Locast is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that accepts donations to fund its operations. It does not charge subscriber fees. It works to increase access to local broadcast channels digitally by bringing them to the internet.
The organization was founded in 2018 by David Goodfriend, who had founded a nonprofit fan-advocacy group called Sports Fans Coalition about a decade earlier.
This service is currently in 32 different markets throughout the United States. It reaches about 51.7% of the population, which is over 168.5 million people.
Locast streams the local television channel signals over the internet to supported U.S. cities, improving reach for those local markets.
Markets Served Near Fair Haven New Jersey
Northeastern markets that Locast serves near Fair Haven include:
- New York City
Locast has a geo-fencing policy, so you can only view the local channels for the city that you normally receive them for when viewing cable or satellite TV.
From reviewing the organization’s news page, it looks like the service expands into new markets regularly. Some of the recent areas added within the last year include:
- Portland, OR
- Orlando, FL
- Miami & West Palm Beach, FL
How Does Locast Work?
You first sign up for an account at Locast.org. Once you enter your email address and create a password, you’ll receive an email to verify your email address.
You can access Locast online through a web browser or an app.
Local television can be viewed through:
- iOS app
- Android app
- Apple TV
- Fire TV
- Android TV
Closed Captioning Enabled
For those that like to use Closed Captioning, this feature is available in Locast through the settings menu. Users can also enable or disable the feature by clicking a CC icon at the bottom of the streaming window.
Is It Really Free?
Yes, Locast is completely free to use for streaming your local television stations available to your city. The company accepts donations to help keep the service running and to fund expansion into other markets.
We did find during our research that you will have your viewing interrupted from time to time by donation requests. But if you don’t mind those, you do get to watch local TV for free. So, for many it’s a trade-off they’re willing to make.
When using the service, you’ll see a TV menu very similar to the one on the TV Guide’s website. You can access all your local stations and watch them on any device, from your television through a streaming app to your smartphone.
You can see several screenshots of the interface at the Google Play store.
Gives You a Free Local TV Alternative
Ultimately, Locast gives people more options when it comes to “cutting the cord.” They don’t have to worry about losing vital access to local news or the major network shows they enjoy if they decide to move to streaming TV only.
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