Locast, a service providing free streaming access to local broadcast TV, suspended operations in September 2021 after legal challenges from major networks. This leaves many cord cutters wondering – how do I stream local channels now?
Don‘t worry – you have options to replace Locast and keep streaming local news and programming without expensive cable. As an experienced cord cutter, I‘ll explore the best alternatives now that Locast is gone.
The Rise and Fall of Locast
First, let‘s recap what Locast was and what happened.
Locast was founded in 2018 as a non-profit streaming service offering free, over-the-air local channel streams in major US markets. Viewers could watch ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and more via the Locast website or apps without paying any fees.
The service expanded rapidly, reaching over 35 markets and more than 3 million users by 2021 according to Locast‘s former CEO David Goodfriend.
Locast claimed its free retransmissions of local broadcast signals fell under copyright exceptions allowing non-profits to enhance access to OTA content. But major networks filed suit questioning Locast‘s non-profit status.
Ultimately, court rulings forced Locast to suspend operations on September 2, 2021. The company agreed to pay $32 million in legal fees to the broadcast networks who sued.
Let‘s look at the impact of Locast ending its service and the best alternatives cord cutters can turn to now.
The Rapid Growth of Cord Cutting
Locast‘s closure comes at a time when ditching traditional cable in favor of streaming and antennas is accelerating.
According to Leichtman Research Group, over 5.5 million households cut the cord in 2021 alone. 83% of households still have a cable subscription, but that figure is down from 87% in 2019 – a massive shift in just two years.
Most consumers are fleeing expensive, bloated cable packages in favor of more flexible and cost-effective streaming options. The average household saves $109 per month after cutting cable.
Many found Locast‘s free streaming a convenient way to access local channels without paying for cable or live TV subscriptions. Its loss leaves a gap in the streaming TV landscape.
Why Did Locast Shut Down? Legal Challenges Explained
Locast relied on a copyright exception that allows non-profit organizations to retransmit local broadcast signals without permission, if done solely to improve free public access.
However, ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC filed suit arguing Locast did not actually qualify as a non-profit.
The key legal issues raised:
- Locast received funding from AT&T and facilitated AT&T‘s streaming services
- Locast charged user donations and cut streams if payments weren‘t made
- Founder David Goodfriend previously lobbied against broadcast networks
Ultimately, the court ruled in favor of the networks and determined Locast was ineligible for non-profit protections.
Locast suspended operations on September 2, 2021 after losing its final appeal. As part of the case‘s resolution, Locast agreed to pay $32 million in legal fees to the broadcasters who sued.
How Locast‘s Shutdown Impacts Cord Cutters
Many consumers relied on Locast as an easy, low-cost way to get local cable channels without paying for a TV subscription.
Its free service offered major benefits compared to alternatives:
- No monthly fees – Streaming services with locals cost $35-$75 per month
- No equipment costs – Antennas range from $20 to over $100
- Minimal setup – Just download the app and start streaming
Locast offered live, HD streams of ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox in 35 US markets covering over 55% of the population.
Its abrupt shutdown leaves a major gap in options for local programming. However, alternatives do exist to replace Locast for streaming your local news and network shows.
Best Locast Alternatives: Free Options
Let‘s explore free solutions first to replace Locast for local channel and news streaming, starting with antennas and free streaming apps.
1. Over-the-Air (OTA) TV Antenna
The most direct replacement for Locast is an OTA TV antenna. Connecting an antenna to your TV lets you tap into free local broadcast channels from major networks.
- Totally free after one-time equipment cost
- Access all local broadcast stations – ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, etc.
- Higher video quality than streaming
- Limited by antenna range – 50+ mile radius from broadcast towers
- Manual scanning required to setup channels
Indoor antennas start around $20. Amplified or outdoor antennas go up to $150 but provide expanded range. Check out my guide to picking the best OTA antenna.
2. Free Local & News Streaming Apps
Free ad-supported apps provide local news and some live channels without needing an antenna or subscription. Top options include:
- NewsOn – 100+ local news stations, market availability varies
- Very Local – Local news from 25+ markets
- Amazon News App – Free for Fire TV users, live and on demand news
These won‘t entirely replicate Locast, but provide a sampling of local programming without equipment or monthly costs. Most are available on popular streaming devices – Fire TV, Roku, Apple TV, Android, iPhone, etc.
Check out my guide to free live TV and news apps for details on installing these Locast replacements.
Paid Alternatives for Local Channel Streaming
If you want the most reliable live local feeds and full programming, paid streaming services are the best option to substitute Locast. Here are the top solutions:
1. Live TV Streaming Services
YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV, fuboTV and others provide live streams of local ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox affiliates in many markets. Channel availability varies by location.
Plus, you get 30-100+ cable channels depending on the plan – sports, news, entertainment and more.
- Smooth HD streams
- Unlimited simultaneous streams
- Cloud DVR with hundreds of hours storage
- Billions in funding for best streaming infrastructure
- $35-$75 monthly fees add up
- Hidden fees like regional sports and broadcast TV fees
- Missing niche channels compared to cable
For a full comparison, see my guide to live TV streaming services with locals.
2. Direct Premium Channel Apps
Major networks like CBS, NBC and ABC offer premium streaming apps with live local feeds and tons of on demand shows.
For example, with CBS All Access (now Paramount+) you get live CBS plus 20,000+ episodes and originals on demand for $5-$10 per month.
- Direct from major broadcast networks
- Local live feeds in supported markets
- Large on demand libraries
- Lower cost than cable
- Only one network‘s programming
- Regional blackout restrictions
Check out my review of Paramount Plus and other premium channel apps for details.
How to Stream Locast Replacements
Once you choose a Locast alternative for local programming, you‘ll need a way to stream it on your TV.
The easiest option is using a streaming media device like a Firestick, Roku, or Apple TV. For antennas, you would need an OTA DVR.
Here are my device picks to stream local channels without Locast:
- Fire TV Stick 4K – Best budget streamer, supports all major apps.
- HDHomeRun – Top OTA DVR to record antenna channels.
- Roku Streaming Stick+ – Great overall Roku player.
- Apple TV 4K – Best for Apple ecosystem.
I help over 500,000 users every month decide on and setup streaming devices. See my latest device recommendations and setup tutorials for beginners:
Recreating Your Channel Lineup Without Locast
With Locast gone, you‘ll likely need to mix a few streaming solutions together to replicate your previous channel lineup.
Here are some examples of how you can recreate local network and news channels:
Use an OTA antenna for live ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox. Get a DVR to record shows. Then use free apps like Very Local and NewsON for supplemental news on streaming devices.
Subscribe to YouTube TV for live local channels, sports networks, cable stations. Add Paramount+ to also get live CBS and VOD.
Hulu Live for live locals, plus NewsON and the Amazon News app on Fire TV for additional on demand news.
Be flexible across paid streaming, free apps, and an OTA antenna to build your own custom bundle without Locast. You can save money but still conveniently access local programming.
FAQs about Locast Shutting Down
Here are answers to common questions from former Locast users looking for alternatives:
Q: Why did Locast shut down?
A: Legal challenges from major broadcast networks questioned Locast‘s nonprofit status and required them to suspend operations.
Q: What‘s the cheapest way to get local channels without Locast?
A: An over-the-air antenna is the most affordable option to access local broadcast stations for free. Streaming apps like NewsOn also provide some free local programming.
Q: How much do streaming services with live locals cost?
A: Live TV streaming providers like YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV cost $35-$75 per month. Premium apps from networks are $5-$10 per month.
Q: Can I use an OTA antenna with streaming devices/apps?
A: Yes, you can combine an antenna for live local channels with streaming devices like Roku or Firestick and apps like NewsON for supplemental on demand news.
Q: What about sports without Locast?
A: Services like fuboTV and DirecTV Stream offer live locals and regional sports networks for $70-$90 monthly. Using an antenna can also provide some regional sports on ABC/CBS/Fox.
More Ways to Cut the Cord and Save
Dropping cable TV can save the average household over $100 per month. Beyond Locast replacements, here are more tips to cut costs:
- Use free ad-supported apps like Pluto TV, Tubi, Xumo for movies and shows
- Rotate subscriptions like Netflix, HBO Max, Disney+ each month
- Split costs with family or friends and share logins
- Take advantage of free trial offers
- Rent newer movies/shows from Amazon, iTunes, Google
Check out my complete beginner‘s guide to cord cutting for more advice on saving money by ditching cable.
The shutdown of Locast leaves a gap for some cord cutters. But with the range of alternatives and recommendations listed above, you can recreate much of your channel lineup for less without Locast. Let me know if you have any other questions!