Streaming Audio

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Running a business

How many users should I expect? How much will this cost? How do I make a business of it? The number of users to expect of course depends primarily on the market size you are in. With the promotion of your stream over your terrestrial signal and on your website you can expect the number to grow over time. Make sure to remember there will be a peak number of listeners during office hours. Some CDNs charge on a per-user basis with a max number of listeners, some charge flat rates, some charge for a certain amount of throughput on a per-month basis.

Another important cost consideration is the (relatively) new licensing fees in effect for streaming audio. The licensing fees you pay for the terrestrial station do not cover what goes out over your audio stream. Many of the CDNs have royalty payment plans that can be included in your monthly streaming expense.

Making a business out of streaming audio and growing the station's revenue is really the name of the game (at least for those of us in the commercial radio space). This is not an article about the effectiveness of one type of ad versus another, and so I won't (and can't) say which one is best. However from an engineering standpoint, you should be prepared to accommodate ad replacement over the audio stream. This will likely require some changes in the technical facility.

Ando Media offers an ad-replacement system that works through PC that performs the streaming audio function as well as the spot blocking/ad replacement function. This streaming computer (living somewhere in your technical facility) communicates directly with the station's play-out system and thus knows when the spot block is playing, and when to play out the replacement spots. Liquid Compass is one large CDN that makes use of the Ando technology.

Self-contained streaming systems provide a plug-and-play method 
of initiating a stream, like this Stream On appliance.

Self-contained streaming systems provide a plug-and-play method of initiating a stream, like this Stream On appliance.

Spacial Audio is yet another player in the ad-replacement game, and its system also works by placing a PC at the station. This PC plays the role of streaming encoder as well as the function of ad replacement. Again, this PC knows when to perform the spot replacement, by way of communications directly with the station's play-out system. Jetcast is one streaming provider that makes use of the Spacial Audio technology.

Stream Audio also offers an ad-replacement system, but it works differently. The streaming encoder lives at the station, and by communicating with the play-out system, tags the elements that play in that stream. When the stream is received at the Stream Audio network operations center, the tags are read and interpreted, and at the appropriate point in time, an ad-streaming server (that lives in its NOC) substitutes the replacement spots. Conceptually, it's the same as the other systems I've talked about but the technology behind it is somewhat different.

So as you can see just the vendors mentioned here all have similar technology and all have common requirements when they're placing gear in your technical facility:

  • The necessary audio feed from your on-air studio

  • Communications link with your play-out system

  • Physical space in the plant for placement of the streaming computer

  • A high-speed, reliable network connection so the stream can be further distributed by way of the CDN you choose. Preferably this would be a WAN connection, but the Internet could be used as well.

  • A means by which remote technicians from the CDN can gain access to your network in order to provide technical support

After your streaming audio gains some traction with an audience, or after you start encoding it with PPM, you will likely want to monitor the stream in some fashion to be sure the PPM can be decoded. In New York we've recently installed PPM decoders for our streaming audio, and we now monitor it constantly, along with our terrestrial signals.

Entertaining an audience with streaming audio makes use of technology that is very different than what we've become accustomed to over the years. However, as more of our current audience, and hopefully a new audience use us in this fashion, it's imperative we learn the techniques and gain the experience necessary to keep them as listeners. Our competitors are, and we can't afford to be left behind in the proverbial technological dust.

Resource Guide

Providers of streaming services, ad insertion and streaming processing


Akamai Technologies

Ando Media

Broadcast Electronics

End to End Technologies



Liquid Audio

Liquid Compass





Real Networks

Spacial Audio

Stream Audio

Stream Guys

Stream On

Stream the World


Warp Radio

Irwin is chief engineer of WKTU, New York.

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