Livestation P2P TV Cautiously Considers Public Launch

Microsoft-backed live P2P TV platform Livestation is due to complete a technical trial phase in “the next few weeks” – but is under no illusions as to its chances of success. The operation, an offshoot of desktop alerts maker Skinkers in which Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) took a 10 percent stake in 2006, this month added former CNN president Chris Cramer as an adviser. But at this stage, relaxed CEO Matteo Berlucchi is far from making any grand claims about yet another online TV platform.

Speaking to me yesterday, he conceded the outfit does not yet have a firm business model nailed down, but: “If you can share some of people’s attention and time, and our users use this on a regular basis for X minutes a month, there’s clearly value there. There are many ways of extracting it… advertising, pay-per-view, whatever model you want.”

Livestation’s approach will be to appeal to “news junkies” who want rolling news, live sports and continuous financial commentary open in a desktop window, in the same way they might multi-task whilst listening to streaming radio. The channel lineup right now includes news channels like BBC News 24 and Sky News but, to succeed, Livestation may have to eschew two common wisdoms – first, that users won’t consume long-form content at their desks and, second, that the channels it carries will be reluctant to have additional ads laid over their own pictures.

Berlucchi, who is also Skinkers’ CEO, maintains Livestation may be able to run ads with broadcasters’ consent or give channels input in to its ad inventory but it’s very early days and, right now, he’s more concerned that the service works properly: “I’ve been on the internet for 14 years, I’ve seen a lot of overhyped things; we’re just doing it a step at a time … If you mess it up the first time, you won’t get a second chance … The plan is to complete the technical trial in the next few weeks and assess what is the true potential for this technology”.

Even if Livestation flatlines, it may prove to have increased the install base for Microsoft’s Silverlight, the Flash competitor that underpins the software. Berlucchi said there was actually little to choose between Flash and Silverlight and that Microsoft’s involvement is “arm’s-length”.