Locast countersues broadcasters, accuses them of colluding against it

Locast today filed a counter lawsuit against ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC. In it, the streaming app accused the broadcasters of colluding against it.

Locast, which offers free streaming access to local broadcast television stations, claims that the big four broadcasters are using their market power to prevent distributors and other platforms from partnering with Locast. The company cited YouTube TV as a specific example. According to the complaint, Google told Locast that the big four broadcasters said they would punish Google if the company provided access to Locast on its streaming TV service.

Locast said that broadcasters could also threaten to withhold their associated cable networks (Disney owns ESPN, Fox owns Fox News, etc.) from distributors.

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The countersuit follows a lawsuit filed in July by ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC with the United States District Court in southern New York. The complaint against David Goodfriend and his non-profit Sports Fans Coalition NY, the group that operates Locast, asked the court to prohibit Locast from operating its service and to award damages connected to Locast’s operations.

Gerson Zweifach of Williams & Connolly, which is representing the plaintiffs in the Locast case, issued a statement in response to Locast's countersuit:

“Locast’s filing today only confirms that it has no answer for its industrial scale violations of the law. Sixteen million households receive broadcast television free over the air, which represents a nearly 50 percent increase in the last eight years. Locast does nothing for those households; it serves the interests of its pay-TV patrons, who have provided Locast and its founder with hundreds of thousands of dollars in lobbying fees, donations and nationwide distribution on certain pay-TV platforms. We trust the courts to see right through this façade and recognize Locast for what it is – not a public service organization, but a creature of certain pay-TV interests with an entirely commercial agenda.”

Locast streams full-power broadcast channels in local markets to anyone with an internet connection located within the relevant Nielsen Designated Market Area (DMA). The company's operational costs do not include licensing fees paid to broadcasters. The organization relies on a statute within the Copyright Act that allows a non-profit organization to retransmit local broadcast signals.

Locast is a non-profit, but it asks its users for donations to help cover costs. Earlier this year Locast received a $500,000 donation from AT&T, which said the money was intended to assist Locast in its “mission to make free broadcast content available to consumers and offer them more choice” by serving as a signal booster and alternative means of accessing broadcast stations.

The lawsuit contends that Locast is not merely boosting broadcast signals for those who can’t receive them. It accuses Locast of operating with its own commercial benefit in mind as well as the commercial benefit of large pay TV operators including DirecTV and Dish Network.

“Locast is not the Robin Hood of television; instead, Locast’s founding, funding, and operations reveal its decidedly commercial purposes,” the lawsuit reads.

This article has been updated to include a statement from the broadcasters.