Locast.org, the non-profit service streaming New York City over-the-air TV stations on the internet, added another channel since its launch earlier this month. WNET, NYC’s primary PBS affiliate, joins WLIW, the secondary PBS station in town.
I noticed the addition in a Bloomberg Technology story that ran last Friday; it mentioned that Locast carried 15 channels. And the article led with the news, or non-news, that I find very interesting about this startup. “It’s been a week and we haven’t heard anything,” said David Goodfriend, head of Locast. “I don’t know how long that will last, but it’s been longer than I’d ever thought.”
Later, that Bloomberg article possibly explained what might trigger broadcasters’ lawsuits. It quoted Jack Goodman, a former general counsel for the NAB, who noted that the non-profit copyright loophole prevents Locast from benefiting from its retransmissions. In short, there will be trouble if it ever starts charging for subscriptions. And if it remains a free service, Goodman said, “I don’t know how they can afford to do it.”
(I know how they might afford to stay free, not even accounting for donations from grateful viewers. Already, Locast is funded by an anonymous, deep-pocketed benefactor. Since Goodfriend used to work for Dish Network, let’s hypothetically say that benefactor is Dish founder Charlie Ergen. What do you think it would be worth for Dish, in its next OTA retransmission impasse, to be able to tell its customers to flip over to the local Locast feed? Could Dish add Locast as a digital service alongside YouTube and Netflix? If the benefactor is connected to a cable TV giant, the same scenarios could play out. After all, as I wrote at Locast’s launch, Cablevision suggested something like this years ago.)
Locast remains geofenced, available only to devices that can prove they’re in New York City. The web site posted an apology to folks who live within the NYC media market but outside the city. “Unfortunately, as we grew rapidly during our first weekend we experienced some difficulties servicing those residing outside of the city limits. We apologize for this inconvenience but are working to get everyone their local content soon.” If those growing pains are the worst of Locast’s worries, it’s doing very well.