At the Inspire Conference back in June, The Next Web met a new startup called Lutebox, which sold itself as a “social entertainment hub for premium content”.

In Lutebox’s case, a social entertainment hub is basically an online hangout where users can stream, play and discover premium entertainment content and consume it in real-time with friends around the world.

Lutebox is rolling out its alpha release today, and it’s initially only being launched to the UK in its formative months.

Ali Ahmed, founder and Managing Director of Lutebox, said:

“We are extremely excited to launch our website. Lutebox combines the best in premium entertainment with real-time social interactivity, by giving users the unique experience of engaging with friends while watching the same content at the same time from one convenient place.”

The problem the platform is seeking to solve, according to Ali, is that people don’t normally have a central point online where they can consume instant, on-demand premium entertainment whilst interacting in real-time with their friends.

So how does it work? Users purchase Lutes, which are virtual credits, which can then be used to buy premium content. And users can club together to pay for a movie – as though they are hiring a DVD and watching it together in the same room. Lutebox takes a fixed commission fee from every transaction, while returning the remainder to the original content owner.

Lutebox offers 5,000 premium videos in its library of which more than 500 are available from today, with the rest being added over the course of the alpha roll out. At the time of writing, ‘Music’ is the only live category, though others will be filled as it progresses. Lutebox will encompass movies, music, TV shows, sports and games too. “Our goal is to make social networking entertaining as well as making entertainment social,” says Owais Shaikh, Co-founder and CTO of Lutebox.

Lutebox is headquartered in London, and thus far has raised two rounds of investment amounting to more than £150,000 from angels, and Ali tells me they’re currently speaking to a VC about further funding.

The Next Web readers have been invited to join Lutebox in the alpha stage. Simply click here, and register with your email address at the bottom and Lutebox will then issue invites to the first 100 users who arrive via the link in this post.

Furthermore, Lutebox is giving away 300 Lutes free to a set number of early alpha users, so you’ll need to be quick to get the free credits.

Meanwhile, here’s The Next Web’s original interview with Ali back in June: