Rob Thomas, John Legend on board for 'Stripped.'

Clear Channel Communications plans to make a big push into the Internet radio space next month with a new performance series that will be syndicated weekly to hundreds of its local-station Web sites across the United States.

The radio giant also is upping its commitment to the streaming business by bringing the programming from all of its stations in the top 25 markets -- 300 stations in total -- to online listeners by May 1.

The company says its new series, "Stripped," was inspired by such programs as MTV's "Unplugged" and the music segments of "Saturday Night Live." Each week, a different artist will perform five songs in an intimate, closed-studio setting in New York or Los Angeles. The performances will combine new tracks, reinterpretations of hits and covers.

Atlantic's Rob Thomas, Columbia's John Legend, J's Gavin DeGraw and Hollywood's Jesse McCartney will be among the initial artists featured in the series.

"Stripped" is produced by Clear Channel's new online music and radio division, headed by executive VP Evan Harrison, formerly GM of AOL Music. Harrison helped develop Sessions@AOL, which has emerged as one of AOL's most popular original programming elements.

Clear Channel is looking for similar high-impact programming features to rally station, listener and advertiser interest in its online offerings. "We're giving our listeners a compelling reason to go to our Web sites and come back to our Web sites," Harrison says.

"Stripped" performances will be branded as local-station programming and will be promoted aggressively at the local level, both on-air and online. Participating artists will do on-air interviews and take listeners' questions via satellite in 10-15 markets. A general interview with the artist will be distributed to all other participating markets.

Clear Channel already streams 200 of its 1,200 stations online. But without a coherent Internet strategy until now, it has been playing second fiddle to the dominant online-only players like Yahoo, AOL, MSN and Live 365.

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