Internet-based audio streaming is an issue of great complexity, as the continual battle over royalties demonstrates. As radio’s footprint continues to expand into cyberspace, a variety of “information age” issues present themselves. A good example is the idea of those streams being hijacked (streamjacking) by third party websites leaving the originating stations holding the bag, and the bill, both for the bandwidth used and for the royalties that must be paid.
StreamAudio, a leading provider for streaming radio stations’ signals on the Internet, announced today that it has released a new software feature that detects when a listener’s request for a stream is coming from an unauthorized source; that is, from a “hijacking” site. There are lots of Internet sites worldwide that link to radio station streams and intercept the listener’s request to “Listen Live” to an Internet broadcast. Once the listener connects, the audio and advertising content is streamed to the listener from a player of the hijacker’s choice, not the radio station’s official player. This way, the hijacker gets the advertising impressions and corresponding revenues, but the radio station still gets the streaming bill and pays for all royalties (i.e., they play, you pay).
Darren Harle, President and General Manager of StreamAudio, said, “We have found a way to detect and stop an unauthorized request for a stream, warn the listener that the request is coming from an unauthorized site, and give the listener a chance to re-direct their request for a stream back to the radio station’s web site. With this, we both thwart the hijacker and help radio stations keep their listeners, their traffic levels, and their available impression in tact.”
As the royalties issue shakes out, stations everywhere are finding the added expense to be sizable. If you then factor in the cost of bandwidth, this becomes a very important aspect of radio’s evolution into the digital frontier. According to the press release, the impact of streamjacking is large, to the tune of up to 50% of traffic in some cases. That is a hefty financial burden for those stations with an audio stream:
Jay White, Corporate Director of Operations for MCC Radio, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Morris Communications Company said, “Until StreamAudio brought this to our attention, we had no idea that this ‘hijacking’ practice was so prevalent. We never really thought about other websites stealing our product, but knew it had the potential to cost us a lot of money if they did. […] In October of 2007 we finished the migration of our radio streams from brand X, a Windows Media Player based provider, and noticed that our bandwidth usage for those stations dropped by almost 50% with stream protection.”
The ability to redirect streaming requests from a hijacking website back to the original radio station’s website could, if effective, make an immediate difference in the budgetary bottom line. For some smaller independent stations it might even make the difference between being able to afford to stream or not. I feel quite confident in predicting that this is only the first of many applications that will evolve to meet the challenges of the new medium.
I will be keeping my eyes open for future news articles on the subject as this solution is deployed. In the meantime, I would like to invite thoughts and opinions from our readers.