Livestation Opens Up Beta Test, Focuses on News

The British tech start-up Skinkers is opening up the technical trial for its Livestation P2P platform today, promising to send out invites to anyone who signs up. Livestation is a P2P live-streaming client based on technology developed at Microsoft Research. The focus of the product hasn’t really been clear until now, but Skinkers CEO Matteo Berlucchi told me today that his company wants to establish Livestation as an aggregated news offering with broadcast-quality live feeds.

Skinkers has signed up a number of news broadcasters for this new beta testing period, ranging from Blooomberg to Al Jazeera, but not all of them are going to be available worldwide. A commercial launch with more channels and additional features is planed for the second half of this year.

European Livestation users will have access to the BBC, Bloomberg, Al Jazeera, France 24 in French and English, Euronews, Canal+, Sky News and two BBC Radio stations with the new beta test unveiled today. US users will just get Al Jazeera, France 24 and BBC Radio for now, but Berlucchi was quick to remind me that this is still a technical trial to prove that the technology is working and that there is actually a demand for such an offering.

Skinkers is also announcing today that the former CNN International President Chris Cramer is joining the company as an advisor to help with its news strategy. Matteo Berlucchi told me during a phone interview that there is a simple reason Skinkers has chosen to concentrate on the news market: less rights restrictions. Entertainment programming is oftentimes restrained by geographic release windows and other and complicated licensing issues. News broadcasters on the other hand are increasingly operating world-wide.

Livestation is based on technology Skinkers acquired from Microsoft, in exchange giving the software giant a stake in its company. The player is based on Microsoft’s Flash competitor Silverlight and only available for Windows right now, but Berlucchi promised a Mac version for the commercial launch.

The finished product will eventually feature some type of advertising but will be free to its users, said Berlucchi. It will also have additional features, including a Tivo-like pause button, that aren’t included in the beta right now, but the focus will always be on live streaming as opposed to Joost-like On-demand programming. One side effect of that decision is that Livestation will likely have fewer problems leveraging its P2P architecture because its users are watching and redistributing the same programming at the same time.

Some are arguing that this kind of live TV experience makes no sense on the net, but Berlucchi is confident that there is a demand for live news coverage in the office or on the road. He believes news broadcasters will eventually start to offer dedicated streams for online platforms like Livestation . Another area the company might look at in the future is live sports coverage, but for now the focus is completely on news, and there doesn’t seem to be any shortage of that, as Berlucchi noted: “People are busy creating terrible news all the time.”