About a year ago, a nonprofit called Locast quietly started streaming local broadcast channels such as ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC in New York City. It has since expanded to six other cities, and will probably get a lot more attention now that the operation has been profiled by The New York Times. Essentially, Locast relies on an exemption in copyright law that lets nonprofits retransmit broadcasts to the public. In other words, Locast appears to be legal, though it hasn’t been tested in court.
So how do you actually watch Locast? It’s easy:
- If you’re on a computer, head to Locast.org and allow the site to access your location.
- Click “Live TV Guide” and find your city. You have to be in one of the supported markets, which currently include New York City, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Dallas, and Denver.
- You’ll then see a channel lineup and programing guide that shows you what’s on TV and what’s coming up. Just click the show you want to watch, register for a new account (or sign in with Facebook), and you’re ready to start streaming.
- You can also watch Locast on your phone with its iOS and Android apps.
- As for TV support, Locast is currently available on Roku streaming players and smart TVs. The group has said it’s working on Fire TV and Apple TV apps, but they’re not available today.
Caveat: Locast only offers live TV feeds, not DVR service. If you want to record local channels, you’ll have to pay for a live TV streaming service such as YouTube TV or DirecTV Now, or rig up your own over-the-air DVR with an antenna. Remember, the service is free, but Locast does take donations, as that’s the only way the service is funded.