This story was written by Keith Dawson for the Industry Standard's Media Grok email newsletter. It is archived here for informational purposes only because The Standard's site is no more. This material is Copyright 1999-2001 by Standard Media.

The Day the Streaming Died

Apr 17 2001 09:00 AM PDT

A 2-year-old strike settlement causes radio stations to pull the plug on their webcasts.

The law of unintended consequences struck Internet broadcasting last week. Many large radio stations stopped streaming their content on the Internet because of a clause that was negotiated in the settlement of a two-year-old strike. A few outlets carried news of the outage last week; this week, reporters are still finding new angles.

Washington, D.C., news radio station WTOP explained the beef most cogently. Managing Editor Steve Dolge explained that the settlement terms of the 1999 strike by the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, or AFTRA, included a 300% bonus fee payable to voiceover artists whose commercials are run on the Web. Last week, two groups of ad agencies, whose members are on the hook for the fees, demanded of their client radio stations that they pull the affected commercials off the Web. A number of large station holders elected instead to shut down Webcasting altogether.

Various outlets listed the affected stations as those owned by Clear Channel Communications, Radio One, Emmis Communications and ABC/Disney. (Clear Channel runs 1,710 radio stations, according to the New York Post, and operates 750 Web sites, according to InternetNews.)

InternetNews introduced a new angle on the story and Reuters fleshed it out yesterday. InternetNews' Clint Boulton reported that companies offering ad-insertion technology are encouraging radio stations to bypass the AFTRA union and its demands for a new royalty stream. What royalty stream? Boulton quoted the COO of StreamAudio: "Everybody still wants a piece of the Internet pie that doesn't exist yet."

Crediting unnamed analysts, Reuters reporter Sue Zeidler recited a list of ad-insertion companies that stand to win big in the tussle: RealNetworks, Hiwire, Lightningcast and StreamAudio. These companies can help stations insert Internet-specific - and royalty-free - ads into their Web broadcasts. We guess content just wants to be free.

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