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An update on streaming

It was once said that streaming is the future of radio. Well, the future is here.

To the uninitiated, it seems like quite a challenge to get an Internet stream of your station up and running. With questions about royalties, content owners and streaming sponsors out there, you need to do more than just plug your studio into a media encoder.

First, let's look at the stream's building blocks:

streaming block diagram

The basics of streaming (Click image to enlarge.)

You obviously have the on-air feed. This is your bread and butter, and your reason for being. You need to feed that at the very minimum.

Next, is the commercial overlay technology. Commercial overlay was created by necessity. Years ago, the voiceover artists and creative houses that produced commercials licensed their work for radio airplay only. They decided early on that if their work was to be streamed over the Internet, they should be compensated for that as well. So in response, several companies came up with the idea to tie an audio encoder to commercial playback systems, enabling the encoder to interrupt the live studio feed with alternate programming. As this system matured, operators realized that this opened up an entirely new revenue stream for the station. What started out as a problem ended up being an opportunity as stations started to sell spots on the Internet stream as well as on the air.

Then there is the back end, or distribution point. Most broadcast facilities lack the bandwidth to feed audio to thousands of listeners, so it's common to send a single feed to a distribution point that can feed many simultaneous listeners.

Finally, there is the collection of data for song royalty payments. Entities that stream music are required to pay royalties on the basis of number of listeners per song, so you need to know every song that played, and how many people were listening at the time. It's not hard to imagine how difficult it could be to collect all of that data.

These blocks are pretty much the minimum today if you're looking to stream your station.

So, how do you do it?

- continued on next page

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