Locast is a streaming service that provides access to free local live TV channels. Getting started with Locast is fairly easy although there are some limitations that will impact on the ability for many consumers to access the service. The main one is that Locast is not currently available in all locations. Another limitation is that although the service is free, some may find they end up paying a monthly amount for an uninterrupted streaming experience.
Over the past couple of years, the availability of free TV streaming services has been on the rise. There are some services that provide free access to on-demand movies and shows through an interface that’s similar to Netflix. Then there are those that provide free access to live TV channels, albeit not necessarily the main or most popular channels.
Locast is a little different to these as it does look to provide access to popular local live TV channels, including ABC, Fox, NBC, CBS, and PBS. Here’s everything you need to know about Locast before getting started with the free local live TV streaming service.
Table of contents
Is Locast really free?
Yes, Locast really is free. That is, there’s no cost or paid subscription needed to stream channels through Locast. This is possible as Locast is a not-for-profit service and therefore, does not charge customers for access to local broadcast stations streamed over the internet. As these channels are streamed, there is no need for any additional hardware typically used for accessing local broadcast TV, such as an antenna.
While Locast is free and does claim a not-for-profit status, it is currently facing legal action from some of the major names in broadcast TV. The crux of the lawsuit is that some of the channel owners want the service stopped as Locast has not agreed any carriage deals with them. Again, Locast argues it doesn’t have to as it is a not-for-profit service and is providing consumers with their legal right to access these stations.
Read more: Locast lawsuit explained
Another caveat to the really free point, is that although Locast does not charge consumers anything, it does encourage donations to help support the service.
Again, users are not compelled to donate, but there are multiple reports of the aggressive use of notifications requesting donations during playback. These notifications essentially interrupt the viewing experience and for some, to the point that donations are needed to ensure a reliable and consistent experience.
Locast is not available everywhere
One of the major caveats with Locast is that the service is not currently available nationwide. Furthermore, it is unlikely to be available nationwide any time in the near future. Instead, the service has focused on a very slow and gradual rollout which includes cities, or parts of them, gaining support.
As a result, whether someone is able to actually use Locast will largely be determined by where they live. As this is a local live TV service, even using a VPN to spoof a location is unlikely to help much, as they won’t be able to access their local live TV stations as intended.
Read more: Locast supported cities list
For those in an unsupported location, Locast does not provide detailed information about its development roadmap, so knowing which cities are next to gain support, or when they will, is not available.
One of the reasons Locast uses to explain the slow rollout is how it is currently trying to ‘modernize the delivery of broadcast TV.’ As part of that modernization effort is the need to introduce new technologies and solutions to help with the delivery of local live TV to a streaming device. For example, Locast points to “equipment, bandwidth, and operational support” as some of the main financial hurdles it faces when rolling out to new areas, which is also another reason why the service seeks donations.
When it comes to donating, an important point is that Locast does not request a one-time donation, but instead requests users sign up to a monthly donation. While the payment amounts can be as low as $5, as this is a recurring monthly payment, it is similar to a subscription cost, albeit an optional one.
Downloading the Locast app
As Locast streams local live TV channels over the internet, the need for additional hardware, including antennas and tuners is nonexistent. Instead, users are able to tune in and watch Locast either directly through the service’s main website or by downloading the Locast app.
Locast is currently compatible with many of the major platforms and operating systems and so downloading the app should not be too difficult. Of course, downloading the app is one thing, but as mentioned, if the service is not supported in a specific city, then while the app can be downloaded, consumers will find they cannot do much else once the app is installed and opened on a device.
In spite of its limited city support, Locast is a service that’s widely accessible on a number of devices and platforms, including the major operating systems optimized for the TV.
Locast is available on the following platforms:
- Android mobile
- Android TV
- Amazon Fire TV
- Apple TV
- iOS mobile
- Dish Hopper
Devices with access to the app or channel stores on any of the platforms mentioned above will be able to directly download the Locast app or channel and start streaming.
The list of supported set-top box and streaming devices include:
- Fire TV Stick
- Fire TV Stick 4K
- Fire TV Cube
- Nebula Soundbar
- NVIDIA SHIELD
- Roku Express
- Roku Premiere
- Roku Streaming Stick+
- Roku Ultra
- Roku Smart Soundbar
- Xiaomi Mi Box
Watching Locast on a smart TV
While Locast aims to bring local live TV access to consumers in their homes, the service is largely missing from many of the major first-party smart TV manufacturer platforms. For example, Locast is not currently available on Samsung, LG, or Vizio smart TVs that run on their own OS.
However, any smart TV that is powered by Android TV, Fire TV, or Roku OS, should find they are able to access the service without issue. This includes a wide variety of models from many popular smart TV brands.
Popular Android TV, Fire TV, and Roku smart TV brands:
|Android TV||Fire TV||Roku TV|
Although not every smart TV from the brands mentioned above will be running on Android TV, Fire TV or Roku, any smart TV that is running on one of these TV-optimized platforms should find they are able to download Locast from the Google Play Store, Amazon App Store, or Roku Channel Store.
Getting started with Locast TV
Once a consumer has determined their location is serviced by Locast and that their preferred streaming device is supported and the app is downloaded, the actual act of getting the service up and running is fairly easy.
Considering Locast does not charge subscribers to stream local live TV, there is no free trial to take advantage of. In addition, there’s no need to set up a payment plan or even provide any payment details at all. Although consumers will need to set up a Locast account to start streaming.
At present, all that’s required to set up a Locast account is an email address. Consumers can set up their account either directly in the app or through the Locast website before downloading the app.
If setting up a Locast account directly through the service’s main website, then the consumer will only need to enter their email and password when accessing the app for the first time.
Once an account has been created and the user is logged in, they can select ‘Live TV Guide’ to see the local live TV stations available in their area.
Selecting any of the channels listed will also generate a ‘watch now’ orange button which the user can click or tap to immediately start streaming that local live TV station.
How to watch Locast summary
Getting up and running and watching Locast is pretty easy to do as the service does not require a subscription or payment details. Instead, consumers can just sign up with an email, download the app and start streaming local live TV.
However, there are two main restrictions that are likely to impact on many consumers. The first and main one is the current location support with Locast only available in a select number of cities in the United States. The second main limitation is the device support with only smart TV and players running on the major streaming platforms currently supported.