Clear Channel Radio streaming audio tricks

UPDATE 08/27/2009: The original post is old, please keep than in mind as you read it (duh). I’ve also turned off any new comments. Details and discussion of the new streaming format have been covered endlessly in the comments.  There’s nothing more I can add. You need to use their player or find the content elsewhere from more listener friendlier streaming sources. Contrary to popular opinion, CCR does not have a monopoly on all the broadcast content out there.  I have found most all of the content that I need ELSEWHERE or via private/underground streams.

Plus if I were to detail a workaround for the current stream protection technique, then guess what? They would just change things again! I see the visits from CCR IP netblocks showing up on here so I know they’re keeping an eye on it.

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Figured I’d share this one outside of close family/friends as Clear Channel Radio’s (CCR) streaming methods seem to get more annoying as time goes on (this coming from a CCR fan too). There’s a couple of ways to work around this, but I’ll post the one that they can’t do much about.

Many are like myself and enjoy listening to various radio station streams on the web as I work in the office. This is especially helpful for listening to the AM’s as the modern urban and suburban environments are hard on AM signals (high noise floor). Most of what I used to listen to were Clear Channel stations, but they’ve gotten so annoying I’ve found other outlets for the same content. It never fails to amaze me how hard and/or annoying CCR makes listening to their streams:

1. Forcing folks to use a player embedded in a browser pop up window is just asking for compatibility/reliability issues.

2. Mandates the use of some form of Windows Media Player. Horrible idea as it immediately makes it impossible to listen using default install of Mac OS X.

3. Add in a nice dose of non-stop flash advertising and/or logos running non-stop in this browser window and not only is it annoying, it can become a performance/system resource problem.

4. Web sites that are, well, horribly bloated and way too active. The web design concept of a “light front door” is apparently lost on them.

To get around this mess CCR has made, for a long time many of us knew how to get the raw URL for the mms stream and just launch it manually in our player of choice. I personally prefer the good ol’ Media Player Classic. I usually get MPC with Real Alternative which I use as I feel the full blown Real Player is just a horrible waste of system resources and they have a history of privacy and security issues. A typical raw mms URL would look like:

mms://axxx.l1999912365.b19999.e.lm.akamaistream.net/D/399/19999/v0001/reflector:12365

This allowed a lot of flexibility in how you could bring the streams up, bookmark them, and so forth. Unfortunately Clear Channel wasn’t too found of this as more and more folks were listening via this or very similar manners. So in 2007 they went in and mandated an auth key to the URL in order to play. Without this dynamic auth key you would get an access denied or other error trying to play their streams.

This new CCR stream protection technique, IMHO, is about useless and just annoys a good chunk of your listener base. For the folks at CCR, the bulk of your content can be found elsewhere so do you want us listening to your streams or your competition’s streams? There’s even a growing underground streaming effort where folks are setting up their own private servers for streaming their local station’s OTA (Over The Air) broadcasts to their friends in other parts of the country.

This latest technique is easily worked around although it does break some of the flexibility we had with the old system. You can still play the streams manually in your player of choice:

1. Just get the raw mms URL as you did in the past. Many ways to do this, but for the non-tech savvy folks, URL Finder may do the trick (I don’t use it myself). Many options are detailed here.

2. Copy and use the portion of the URL up to the point that looks like &aifp=

For example, here’s a raw URL (I’ve chopped off a lot of the end for readability):

mms://a399.l1999912365.b19999.e.lm.akamaistream.net/D/399/19999/v0001/reflector:12999?auth=cav daskfjds;fdafidajfdsfasd;kfjdsjfadsfdsaasfdsadfdxxx&aifp=1234&CPROG=SIMULCAST&MARKET

Out of that, you want this portion:

mms://a399.l1999912365.b19999.e.lm.akamaistream.net/D/399/19999/v0001/reflector:12999?auth=ca vdaskfjds;fda fidajfdsfasd;kfjdsjfadsfdsaasfdsadfdxxx

You can now take that portion and manually load it in your player of choice. Presto!

The auth key expires eventually, so bookmarking this URL is still useless as you’d need a new key the next time you go to listen.

The upside is you can take this link/URL and play the stream once in your favorite player and not be strapped to their horrible player.

The Mac users are still screwed unless you want to install the Windows Media Player for Mac or just use a non CCR station to listen to your favorite program on. CCR’s choice to instantly exclude a small, but growing potential audience of Mac users just beats me as to their thinking…especially considering the demographics of the average Mac user. As I always comment, “do they want more listeners or not?”

For Rush Limbaugh live, Clark Howard, Sean Hannity (recorded earlier), and Coast to Coast AM, consider WTIC 1080 AM out of Hartford, CT. They’ve got a decent site and flash based player that works on anything that can play flash content (aka just about everything including stock Mac OS X). Site is a tad on the “heavy” side, but it’s tolerable. You can also get WTIC on Reciva. CCR could learn a thing or two from WTIC’s site and streaming!

For the very popular “John and Ken” show you’re stuck going in via KFI’s horribly bloated, annoying, and way too heavy site here. Love the show, too bad the KFI 640 AM website sucks so bad.

For Dennis Miller, Bill Bennett, Laura Ingraham, Hugh Hewitt, Michael Medved, Dennis Prager, the Wall Street Journal morning show, and Mike Gallager try WGTK 970 AM out of Louisville, KY.

Odd how the best places to get a good stream are non-CCR eh? That’s the beauty of the internet. Even though there are some web sites that think they have a stranglehold on a particular type of content, they’re usually wrong 99% of the time. Annoy your site visitors and they’ll just find the content they want elsewhere.

UPDATE (04/02/2008):

Reports that this trick doesn’t work outside of the USA.  Guess you could try using one of the VPN services out there for travelers and let that make you appear to be from an American network?

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12 Responses to “Clear Channel Radio streaming audio tricks”

  1. Hi,

    Any tips for their new format?

    73’s

    David

  2. They’ve been changing things around a lot. I gather the downturn has really impacted their internal stance on streaming (and many other things) so I’d expect more changes in the near future.

    While it’s not optimal, you can do a direct link to the mini-player like this (change the domain to fit your favorite station):

    http://www.kfi640.com/cc-common/ondemand/player2.html?world=st

    Change the http://www.kfi640.com to the domain of your station, should work on most of them. You can bookmark these too. With some creative firewall/host file entries, you can even block a lot of the extra garbage on the mini-player and make it halfway tolerable.

    The above will get you quickly to their mini-player page versus jumping through their horridly flash/animation overloaded station home pages. Will even work on Safari in Mac OS X if you get the WMV Flip4Mac addin from here:

    http://www.telestream.net/update-check/wmv/wmv-update-player.htm

    73

  3. huckfinnifkcuh Says:

    I used WMP to play my streams, and have it set up through task scheduler to automatically open at the time the show I want to listen to starts, and then I have a recording program set up to run at the same time to record the show so if I am not at home to sit and listen, I can listen to it later… any way to find a CC stream URL that will open every time?

  4. The folks in the underground have a trick or two, but I don’t think it would work for what you want. You’re not going to find such details listed publicly on the web as Clear Channel’s streaming folks will close any workarounds that get posted.

    The best solutions are:

    1. Find the content you want on another non Clear Channel Radio station that has a much more “listener friendly” stream.

    or

    2. Setup a private steam via a radio and streaming server on broadband connections at a friend or family member’s location that can get the desired station over the air. Crazy that radio stations (CCR in particular) are making their listeners go to these extremes, but there are advantages to this approach. Rumors are that KFI, WLW, WABC, WOR, KISS-FM, and several other “big” stations are being streamed in this “underground” manner. Don’t ask me for the links, for obvious reasons.

  5. davidnoss Says:

    Do all clear channel station stream using MMS (Microsoft Media Server?)
    Do you know what the YAHOO CBS streaming stations use for streaming? I have listeners behind a corporate firewall that can not access a shoutcast stream, but they have no problem listening to CBS/Yahoo Radio or DC101, which I think is Clear Channel ( http://www.dc101.com/main.html)

    • wa4zko Says:

      There might be an exception or two, but all Clear Channel Radio (CCR) streaming uses token protected MMS streams.

      DC101 is CCR using their standard player. Again, tokenized MMS streams.

      CBS Radio uses a flash based player and a HE-AAC codec. It’s arguably a much better setup than CCR’s and should work behind most firewalls unless the IT folks have specifically blocked it. I think they also take measures to protect the streams from direct URL access.

      Shoutcast is it’s own beast with it’s pros and cons. One of the cons is many firewall configurations will break/block it.

  6. 4dude111 Says:

    They have changed the link to something that only works with thier stupid flash player..

    RTMP:// which WMP doesnt recognize

    They did this a couple months ago and i emailed them and said i couldnt listen anymore and they promptly changed it back to the older way….

    They really suck… They dont want anyone OUTSIDE THE USA listening (And they have thier server set to block all outside IPS — SO WHY BOTHER MAKING IT SO HARD TO LISTEN?? (The player doesnt load most of the time))

    • @4dude111

      I do most of my listening to CCR stations via Mac OS X w/ the WMP addin’s. I haven’t noticed any changes..beyond poor audio control (ads talking over top of each other, automation misfires, etc) that has definitely gotten worse lately. Then again, i don’t listen to CCR stations much anymore, KFI is probably the one I listen to much and that’s usually just a few hours each week. Last I checked, my technique for getting the stream URL still works till the token expires (usefulness is limited).

      CCR is not interested in streaming to non-USA listeners for business reasons. Streaming bandwidth costs money and the odds of a foreign listener patronizing their advertisers is pretty much zero in most cases. So if they are going to spend the $$$ to stream, then they want to focus on streaming to users that are the most likely to support their advertising. Ever tightening budges (their own fault) only makes them make more of such choices. So while I can appreciate your ire on this topic, I also see Clear Channel Radio’s reasoning behind it. That said, if you’re creative (think VPN gateway in the USA) it’s fairly easy to get around this.

      There’s some “underground” streaming going on in places. If you’ve got friends or family in a distant area served by a station you enjoy…consider taking a vacation there and setting up your own private stream server fed off a local radio.

      Keep in mind, depending on what content you’re after, you may not have to fool with a CCR stream. A lot of the bigger syndicated shows are available on other (non-CCR) streams. Often these ‘other’ stations are more stream listener friendly and/or use a better stream player than CCR does. Contrary to popular belief, CCR doesn’t have nearly the stranglehold on content that many say they do.

      There’s little out there that I want to listen to, that I can’t find elsewhere. A lot of the non-sense at CCR today is due to the idiocy of “corporate” down in San Antonio making decisions and giving out mandates that should be left up to the local management teams. It was getting bad back in the 90’s when I worked for them and I can tell you first and second hand that it’s much worse today.

      Clear Channel Radio is not unlike a lot of the American main stream media…it’s one of the few businesses where the client (consumer) is always wrong! They seemingly go out of their way anymore to run their listeners/viewers off to other sources. American broadcasting has gone downhill bad in the last decade. American journalism is in very sad shape and has (IMHO) failed us miserably.

  7. 4dude111 Says:

    Well here is the stream i used to listen to and its NOT WMP COMPAT. anymore,you get a RTMP link which wont work in WMP!!

    http://iheartradio.com/cc-common/ondemand/player2.html?world=st&stream_id=3793 (slowjams.com)

    If you can find the direct link format of this it would be very appreaciative my friend! (It used to be WMP links)

    Yes i know WHY they dont want to stream outside of USA,they dont have to owrry about it cause thier server wont let just anyone on!! (So why do all this??)

    Thanx for any help buddy!!

    • First, I’m not going to start a trend of helping folks find direct links. Most will only work for awhile anyways (token expires).

      Second, it looks like CCR has started using token protected flash streaming. Yeah, WMP is out now. But there use of PHP and flash creates a few interesting workarounds to their protections. For the PHP guru’s fire up URL Finder while you fire up their streams and took at close look at the URL’s being fired off.

      Third: I don’t know where you are at. Since it looks like you’re coming from a Road Runner IP I don’t know why geoblocking is an issue for you?? Either way the “geo-blocking” you’re facing ‘4dude111′ is probably very EASILY worked around. Just subscribe to one of the many VPN Gateway services out there that will put your traffic on an American IP address.

      Yeah the encryption over the tunnel will add to your link latency, but impact on streaming audio is probably no big deal especially now that they are using flash. Get a service that gives you a free trial period and give it a shot. If you use unsecured wireless networks (hotels, hotspots, cafe’s, so forth) a VPN gateway is a no brainer if you value security. I travel a lot at times and always “gateway” my traffic if I’m not on my home or office networks, period. If you have family or friends stateside with broadband access, you could always set up a simple VPN gateway on their existing PC. Many, many options out there.

      I have access to many private and corporate VPN’s, so I don’t use any of the commercial offerings. Thus I can’t vouch for any of them in particular. A quick search turned up the ones below. Again, I can’t vouch for them, research and make your own choices, YMMV:

      StrongVPN

      LibertyVPN

      Hotspot Shield

      Again, I don’t personally endorse (pro or con) any of the above providers. There are more out there, do your research and make your own choices. YMMV, blah, blah, blah.

  8. 4dude111 Says:

    I am sorry i wasnt clear my friend….

    I am in the states… (I live in the northeast)

    I know you dont help people but it would really help if you could help me with this… I wish i had a way of contacting you OFF THIS THREAD maybe we could figure it out.. (I know an awefull lot but havent been able to figure this out)

    I found an RTMP player but it wont play the RTMP link i get when i go there.. (I must setting the files right)

    Here it what i found > http://download.cnet.com/Free-RTMP-Streaming-Player-Green/3000-13632_4-10811526.html

    Im sorry for bothering you,i guess i dont understand why they make it so hard (NO ONE OUTSIDE THIS COUNTRY WILL BE ABLE TO LISTEN REGARDLESS OF HOW THEY STREAM IT!!)

    • Even if you can get the direct link, it will only be valid for a very short time (till the token expires or song rotation hits). Doing such is just making yourself more headache than just keeping a link to their player and using it. If enough folks complain to CCR, they might change this but I doubt it.

      My contacts say they switched to the RTMPT protocol to save on bandwidth costs and help protect the streams further. They need folks using their player for business reasons. Many in CCR management think that they should just pull the plug on all the free streams due to the costs issues alone. Remember advertising budgets/revenues are in serious shrinkage right now, I wouldn’t push the issue with them too far. I would not be surprised if they suddenly turn off a lot of the streams soon.

      Find a station that streams in a format or player you like. CCR is big, but they don’t have a monopoly on all the content. I find that outside of KFI, I rarely listen to a CCR stream anymore.

      As I’ve covered in a previous reply, CCR has a reason for blocking international folks from streaming. It costs more money to do so and international users are unlikely to patronize most of their advertisers. Best I can tell, they are doing the geo-blocking of listeners for business and royalty reasons. Creative international users can likely get around it via a VPN Gateway if they really want to. I know how San Antonio (CCR Corp’ Mgmt) thinks, they are not going to change their policy on this. It’s an unavoidable “bottom line” issue. CCR is not a 503c organization, they will make profit or they will not continue to do something that clobbers the bottom line. We can fuss and complain all we want, it is what it is.

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