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AT&T’s End Run Around Costly Local TV: Donate $500k to Locast and Add It to Lineup

Phillip Dampier June 27, 2019 AT&T, Competition, Consumer News, Locast, Online Video No Comments

AT&T today announced it was donating $500,000 to the non-profit group behind Locast, the online streaming service offering free access to local TV stations in more than a dozen U.S. cities.

AT&T’s altruism is a thumb in the eye of high-cost retransmission consent agreements with the corporate owners of local free over the air television stations. AT&T added Locast’s app to U-verse and DirecTV receivers at the end of May, giving subscribers a quick and easy way to access over the air stations if one or more are “blacked out” over a contract renewal dispute. AT&T also continues to offer antennas to customers that integrate with both services’ electronic program guides so subscribers can quickly access their favorite channels.

The Sports Fan Coalition, the group behind Locast, will use the money to further expand its service into other cities. At present, Locast is available to almost one-third of American TV homes, amounting to more than 32 million potential viewers. But the service has a very long way to go to stream local stations from all 210 U.S. TV markets.

AT&T will likely use Locast as a leveraging tool when negotiations become heated, letting TV station owners know they can simply point customers to Locast to continue watching stations. AT&T cannot legally redistribute Locast TV streams to customers without running afoul of copyright law, but it can provide customers with access to the independent Locast app and the internet connectivity that allows that app to function. AT&T does not currently plan to drop local stations already on the lineup in favor of pointing customers to Locast. But it will let customers know that blacked out stations are still available to customers through the Locast app.

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Stop the Cap!