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Audio Streaming Quality Matters

Radio stations that ignore streaming or its quality do so at their own peril

The author of this commentary is a consultant and co-chair of the Audio Engineering Society’s Technical Committee for Broadcast and Online Delivery.

Many broadcasters want to deliver their content by stream as well as by traditional terrestrial broadcast. They care very much how the over-the-air sounds and want to deliver the best product. Over the stream — not so much.

Streaming has different parameters than over-the-air.

Can streaming sound good? Yes.

Can it sound great? If you want it to.

Should it sound the same as your air product? No!

[Read: Come on, Stream Providers, Do the Right Thing!]

Streaming is a different delivery medium with different requirements and results. While most radio broadcasters will maximize their efforts to sound good in the car for the coveted drive time ratings, streaming is the inverse. Listenership on streams tend to be during the times when people are at work. They may be listening on their smart speakers, computer or even their phone.

A broadcaster that is streaming should think about the audio processing. This should be different from broadcast and maximized for your streaming audience. A good CDN should be able to tell you what type of devices are listening to the stream. Yes, you can find out if your audience favors iPhone over Android, Google over Amazon. Try to sound appealing for that audience.

Cue points are very important. Listeners get annoyed when the “Now Playing” information is wrong, locked, or delayed. If you are covering ads whether for the whole audience or delivering Direct Ad Insertion, these cue points will tell the ads to play. Tune your cue point delay correctly so you do not hear what it is covering without cutting off the talent. Educate the talent about this. Can this be done? Absolutely! Is it being done? No!

I have been told by station management that stream quality doesn’t matter. I have been told that the streaming audience is too small! I have been told that over the air is what matters now.

My answer to all of these statements is that the stream matters. Yes, it is the conveyance for the future, but to quote others — the future is now! Make the investment. Large radio companies have created aggregators allowing their competitors to stream alongside of their stations. Are they doing this altruistically? No! They are inserting their own ads and promoting their streams, podcasts or websites. Wake up, radio!

Streaming should be a way of delivery and be the best presentation of the content. Streaming is not an “also ran” and anyone that refers to it that way is not respecting the content.

I apologize for the harshness of this, but it is past due.