We've looked on -- mostly with derision -- at TV networks' furtive first steps into distributing their content online, and how they misinterpret their limited success, then hamstring their efforts with high charges and irritating restrictions. But maybe, just maybe, that's starting to change. CBS, which already sells episodes of its shows on Google Video and through Comcast video-on-demand, will now sell them on its own web site, too, with its CEO saying the strategy is to get their content on as many platforms as possible. There's still plenty not to like, copy protection and a 24-hour viewing window in particular, but is CBS realizing it needs to distribute its content as widely as possible? As Fred Wilson succinctly puts it, CBS should forget about exclusivity (which doesn't really work online anyway), make their content ubiquitous, and support any and all business models their distributors see fit. Put the content out there, and let people pay for it in the way they choose, whether it's through advertising, subscriptions or purchase. If people aren't satified with the current distibution channels, they'll turn to other ones to get what they want -- ones in which CBS and its brethren have no stake and receive no benefit. The answer's pretty easy, as Wilson says. Put your material out there, and let people sell it however they see fit, and take a cut.
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