Controversial Locast Set To Swarm Puerto Rico


America’s “Big Four” broadcast television networks in July 2019 united in seeking to stop a digital app from streaming over-the-air channels to their users without the requisite retransmission consent agreements.

That hasn’t stopped Locast from pushing ahead with the streaming of local broadcast TV channels in markets where it can gain access. In January, it was Sioux City, Iowa. Now, it’s planning to launch in a market where Univision and Spanish Broadcasting System (SBS) have a stake in the action.

Locast, which calls itself “a nonprofit local broadcast TV streaming service,” plans to stream “dozens of local TV channels” via the internet across Puerto Rico.

When? Locast says “this year,” offering no concrete launch date in the U.S. Caribbean territory.

The announcement was made ahead of a Friday hearing held at the University of Puerto Rico in San Juan by Democratic FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks.

“Given that Puerto Rico has recently faced life-shattering earthquakes and hurricanes, we wholeheartedly support serious discussions about how to ensure communication networks are always available, especially for public safety,” said Locast Founder and Chairman David Goodfriend. “Locast can help solve this problem by delivering local TV channels via the internet to phones, tablets, computers, and media players, even when other types of communications infrastructure are damaged. As long as local TV stations are broadcasting, Locast can become a lifeline to the 78 municipalities in Puerto Rico during emergency response and disaster relief efforts.”

Once launched, viewers in Puerto Rico will have the opportunity to use internet-connected devices to access local broadcast TV stations.

The broadcast TV dial in San Juan, the population center of Puerto Rico, is comprised of Telemundo Station Group O&O WKAQ-2, which rebroadcasts WNBC-4 on its DT2 signal; Hemisphere Media Group-owned WAPA-4; WORA-5, which is largely a repeater of WABC-7 and serves as the ABC affiliate in Puerto Rico; Univision-owned WLII-11 and its UniMás sibling WSUR-9; SBS-owned Mega TV affiliate WTCV-18; and PBS member station WMTJ-40 “Sistema TV.”

While Lilly Broadcasting operates “CBS Puerto Rico” and a different company operates a low-power TV station offering FOX programming on a DT2 signal — both available on Liberty, the main cable TV provider in Puerto Rico — neither are available on broadcast signals. As such, Locast is an incomplete solution for viewers seeking all “Big Four” network programming from the mainland U.S.