Locast Responds to Network Complaint by Filing Countersuit

Accused of  being a front for the satellite services, Locast has countersued the big broadcasters charging the networks are colluding to try to smother its business.

ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox sued the creators of Locast in July, claiming that the non-profit streaming service was helping AT&T’s DirecTV and Dish network by providing access to programming during retransmission consent fee disputes and blackouts.

Locast streams local TV station programming in some markets and is able to get around copyright regulations because of its non-profit status, which allows it to act as a signal booster.

In its lawsuit, as reported by the New York Times, Locast claims the broadcasters have gotten together and threatened “business retaliation” against entities that are considering working with Locast.

According to the complaint, Google executives alerted Locast in April that the networks had warned the tech company not to allow YouTubeTV to provide access to Locast. If it did, according to the complaint, Google would be “punished by the big four broadcasters,” the Times reported.

In response to the countersuit, Gerson Zwiefach of Williams & Collolly, representing the networks, said “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% 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," Zwiefach said. 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.”

The network's suit seeks to enjoin Locast and collect damages to be determined.

Named as defendants in the suit are former Dish Network executive David R. Goodfriend and Sports Fans Coalition NY, which Goodfriend founded.

In their suit, the networks charged that Locast was designed to undermine broadcasters in retransmission negotiations.

AT&T donated $500,000 to Locast and integrated the streaming service into DirecTV boxes. That enabled AT&T subscribers to watch CBS programming without an antenna during a blackout earlier this year

“Locast provides these two major distributors with commercial benefits that include the ability to avoid obtaining retransmission consent from local stations to include local stations in their pay-TV offerings by integrating the Locast app into their customers’ set-top boxes; to gain leverage in negotiations with broadcast stations over retransmission consent rights to offer their subscribers access to broadcast channels; and for Dish, to promote a version of its Sling TV internet television service,” the broadcasters said in their lawsuit.

The networks suit seeks to enjoin Locast and collect damages to be determined.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.