At a time when major entertainment conglomerates have focused on optimizing their Internet businesses, major radio station groups have been unleashing initiatives to push into the Web space with a new

(The Hollywood Reporter) -- At a time when major entertainment conglomerates have focused on optimizing their Internet businesses, major radio station groups have been unleashing initiatives to push into the Web space with a newfound urgency.

Industry observers say Viacom Inc.'s Infinity Broadcasting unit, Clear Channel Communications and others are trying to take advantage of new advertising opportunities as well as a way to reach their audiences outside traditional listening windows to better compete with the threat from satellite radio, iPods and the like.

In the latest Web-centric announcement, Clear Channel Communications, the country's largest radio-station group, said March 28 that it is going into the online video business with an initiative dubbed "Stripped," where Internet users can view miniconcerts. The company's plan calls for its more than 1,000 stations to brand the weekly series as their own.

Clear Channel's aggressive approach to the Internet also will include, starting in May, "podcasting," where listeners can listen to, on-demand, comedy skits or other programming they might have missed on the radio.

All these initiatives are coming from Clear Channel Online Music & Radio, a division headed by Evan Harrison, recently hired away from Time Warner's America Online.

They follow the firm's recent announcement that it expects all 300 of its top 25 market stations to be available via online streaming by May 1.

Some analysts speculated that Clear Channel's ultimate goal is to sell ringtones and music online.

But Clear Channel isn't on its own in the fight for Web listeners. Infinity this month made available its all-news and news-talk stations on the Internet and said it would make announcements on other formats to be streamed for the Web down the road.

According to research firm AccuStream iMedia Research, the number of aggregate tuning hours per month for the top 10 Internet radio sites has been on the rise. It was up 75.9% in 2004 to 178.9 million hours.

AccuStream founder and research director Paul Palumbo expects Infinity, Clear Channel and others to keep looking for ways to provide exclusive content online. "Event programming, especially exclusive event programming, leads to usage spikes," he said. "If you manage to follow that up with consistent quality, you get an audience multiplier effect."