The following is excerpted from Wheatstone's November 2019 newsletter:
Streaming. Everyone’s doing it, but as we quickly learned from our friends at StreamGuys, there are a few things that divide the men from the boys.
StreamGuys is an industry-leading service provider of live and on-demand streaming, podcasting delivery, and software-as-a-service (SaaS) toolsets for enterprise-level broadcast media organizations. We got to know the guys at StreamGuys while developing StreamBLADE, our new WheatNet-IP audio network appliance with selectable Opus, AAC and MP3 encoders as well as AGC, peak limiter and other audio processing designed to optimize the performance of encoded audio.
Here, in a recent conversation with SteamGuys’ Tim Labelle, we talk about the tools and trade of streaming for broadcast.
WS: What do you make of the state of streaming today? Do you think streamers are thinking about audio quality now that we’re seeing developments like smart speakers bringing music back into the home?
TL: Processing always comes up when we talk to clients. And it’s clear that there’s some education that needs to take place, especially for those who don’t come from radio where there’s an obsession with quality. Often, it’s the digital media guy who’s managing the streams and he knows about bitrates and codecs but he doesn’t have much experience with signal processing and audio quality. Radio is way ahead of the regular streamer or podcaster in that regard.
WS: That’s good to know because stream quality is something we expect to improve drastically with our new StreamBLADE appliance, as you know. We’re also working together on ad insertion technology so let’s talk about that for a moment.
TL: Right. That’s big − prerolls and midrolls for live streams. As you know, we’re currently working with (Wheatstone systems engineer) Rick Bidlack to trigger midroll ads with the StreamBLADE, and that is important to podcasters and live broadcasters. It’s really like having personalized content during ad breaks for giving people relevant ads and making more money for the broadcaster − that’s the idea, since your local car dealer doesn’t really care about advertising to someone five states away. Then as metadata support comes along, that’s another important piece: getting the song names and names of programs on Web players.
WS: I can see how that could increase a station’s ad universe. It’s a way for a small market station to make revenue that they couldn’t do with just local advertisers.
TL: It works both ways. If you’re a smaller station that doesn’t have a national audience, you can now sell programmatic ads online. You might get a lower rate for those ads but you don’t have to go to all the work of selling them, so it’s a nice tradeoff. And if you’re iHeart and you have sales people across the country, now your LA sales people can run ad campaigns on the New York station.
On a more technical level, it’s nice because there is some buffer there. You can serve, say, 90 seconds of ads in a 60 second spot. The technology is really robust for making it a good listener experience.
WS: Thanks, Tim. It’s always great to work with a group of individuals who know broadcasters and understand what we’re trying to accomplish with StreamBLADE.
TL: You’ve done some good work there. StreamBLADE is just what’s needed for streaming quality, and, of course, having the full signal flow in one box is helpful, where Wheatstone is the single provider for AoIP, encoders and processing in one unified unit.