On a day when most of the electronic industry’s press is focused on the opening of CES, and when Dish Network announced plans to add Google Assistant to its Hopper receivers, Dish also quietly flipped a switch. Locast, the free over-the-air TV streaming service, now has an active app on at least some Hopper receivers. Since FreeTVBlog World Headquarters happens to be in one of Locast’s markets, I can verify that it’s up and running; reports from other viewers suggest that it’s only working within those markets.
This is pretty much what I predicted almost a year ago when Locast first came on the scene. I wrote, “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?”
Was this always Locast’s goal? I have no way of knowing for sure, but it’s easy to build that scenario. David Goodfriend, chairman of the non-profit behind Locast, worked as a Dish vice president for seven years. Despite its stated goal of benefiting online viewers, Locast only carries the primary channels and ignores the sub-channels, which Dish doesn’t rebroadcast. In recent months, Locast has beefed up its geofencing technology – VPNs and location spoofs don’t work as they did at launch. And check out Locast’s first seven markets by size: six of the top nine (New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, Houston, and Boston), plus #19 Denver, home of Dish.
Locast’s Hopper app itself isn’t anything special, just a standard program grid with the major networks shuffled to the top, but it works just fine for delivering live local TV. For now, the app offers no DVR capabilities or any other coordination with any other Dish programming. I’ll keep checking in and let you know when that changes.