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Livestation To Expand Live News Over Mobile

Livestation, the UK-based online television platform, is to launch further applications to stream live news broadcasts over the iPhone and other smartphones like Android and Blackberry handsets by the end of the year.

The announcement by Livestation CEO Matteo Berlucchi follows the recent launch of applications from Al Jazeera (AJE Live) and BBC Worldwide. The BBC World News service went live in June pushing broadcasts to viewers in 16 European countries and this has now been extended to the U.S., excluding New York State where BBCWW has no rights agreement.

Berlucchi revealed that Livestation is in talks with broadcasters such as CNN, Deutsche Welle, and Russia Today to offer further single-channel client apps via Apple's iTunes Store in the coming months.

A live streaming BBC World News app for the iPhone was demonstrated last December but stalled while Livestation waited on Apple’s approval. Two quality feeds are offered, 96Kbps on 3G/Edge and 300Kps on Wi-Fi networks distributed with around 10-sec delay, over Akamai’s IP-based Media Delivery.

"It’s the first time anywhere that live TV streaming over 3G has been delivered and it was a big decision for Apple," says Berlucchi. "They had to weigh up the consequences of streaming a service that has until now been the preserve of individual network operators. It’s the first time where a local operator has had no say in a mobile TV service. This has radical commercial consequences."

He continues; "The traditional model in which a broadcaster does content deals with an operator is being overturned. Now a broadcaster can have a direct relationship with the consumer, cutting out the middleman and allowing broadcasters or content owners more profit."

Rather than offer all 21 news channels available from Livestation via PC, the company has adopted an "a la carte’"approach, in which the user will download only those channels of interest, effectively turning the iPhone or iPod into the content aggregator.

"By examining viewer patterns on Livestation we noticed that people tended to gravitate to a particular channel so we thought it made sense for people to buy specific brands and more sense from a broadcaster’s marketing perspective," says Berlucchi.

"We believe that the current take-up of our application is just the tip of the iceberg," he continues. "Once other broadcasters see the immediate business benefits of the revenue model we are offering, whereby they receive payment when an iPhone user purchases our application for their service, we expect usage to increase. In the future, paid-for content is also a possibility, further strengthening the business benefits of broadcasters."

The application is currently purchased as a one-off payment for free anytime streaming priced EURO3.99 (U.S. $5.75) for BBCWW and EURO2.99 ($4.30) for AJE Live but this will shortly change to a subscription model costing around 99c ($1.40) a month. This may coincide with a software update to include adaptive bitrate delivery, pause and instant 30-second rewind capability.

"News channels are ideal content for portable viewing," he adds. "Demand is definitely there and people are willing to pay because they want to track breaking news wherever they are."

Livestation is indirectly part-owned by Microsoft, which has a minority stake in Livestation parent Skinkers. Berlucchi says that two months ago Livestation was spun-out from Skinkers as an independent company with new, private investment.

"Livestation is not only upending existing commercial broadcaster-operator relationships but from a social perspective it can be a disruptive media too," claims Berlucchi. "Our service was heavily accessed internally in Iran during the recent unrest when foreign new broadcasts were blocked and during the Gaza conflict at the beginning of the year by U.S. viewers when U.S. networks gave the story limited coverage."

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