Imagine if car manufacturers commissioned exclusive freeway access.  You’re headed from Miami to NYC.  1-95 will accept Hondas and Fords only, but the 495 will have inked hot deals with Toyota and Chevrolet.  You would never be able to take the most efficient route, because a fragmented labyrinth of highways would emerge, and drivers would be left scratching their heads: which car will optimize my travel needs now and in the future?

Luckily the powers that be have recognized the importance of an open highway system unencumbered by special interests, but the media landscape that’s emerging online belies the very principles of openness that have propelled innovation on the internet (and through interstate commerce). ###

Set-top IPTV devices like XBox, AppleTV and Akimbo are creating closed-access walled-garden platforms, but the most troubling sign has just emerged: exclusive content. 

Microsoft recently announced a plan to expand offerings on its Xbox 360 console by working with a company headed by Peter Safran, a veteran Hollywood producer and talent manager, to produce original shows for distribution on the system.  Who cares?  More content is good, right? Well…

Lets say the three shows you watch are The Office, Lost and Flight of The Concords.  Guess what?  If you want to watch them all, you might just end up buying three separate set-top boxes.  That’s bullshit.  Why not make them accessible to more people all the time? It works for Next New Networks and Crackle!

Content on the internet should be open.  Where competition and innovation should rest is in a mechanism that bridges the gap between the veg-out, lean-back experience of old TV with the convenience, control and staggering variety of new TV. 

We’ll get there eventually, I’m convinced.  In the meantime, bullies like Microsoft will compete on exclusive content while the rest of us navigate a dizzying labyrinth of media extending devices.

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