Microsoft's long-term strategy with the Xbox game console line was never really a secret. It wanted to find a way onto the TV screen in a way that its IPTV and other Web TV projects never could. I recall interviewing executives about the larger plan years ago, and it was clear back then that the company viewed the game console as a set top box. And according to reports, we will see a more robust Xbox TV experience by the holidays this year. The company has already enhanced its programming from ESPN, and CEO Michael Ballmer recently touted to financial analysts a torrent of new TV-like services on the way. According to recent reports, Microsoft is also talking with the cable companies about working with rather than against them in the battle for the living room.
Of course it begs the question of what could Microsoft put on a game console that isn't already available by other means like upcoming set top boxes or connected TVs. Well, in any early stage war over distribution territory like the living room, looking for media exclusivity is the default position. We went through it in the portal wars on the Web and even in the earliest days of mobile media.
And so Xbox will be the exclusive live streaming partner for Clear Channel Radio's iHeartRadio Music Festival on September 23-24. Xbox users who log into their Live accounts will be able to see and hear an HD quality live stream of the performances from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Clear Channel says that tickets for the event sold out in the first ten minutes when it was announced in July. It is the company's big promotional push behind the release of a new digital IHeartRadio product that pulls together broadcasts form 800 radio stations with user-generated stations. The concert will include Lady Gaga, Jay-Z, Black-Eyed Peas, Alicia Keys and Jennifer Lopez to name a few.Well, hardly exclusive, considering that the concert will also be audio streamed across 600 Clear Channel stations, the Web and Facebook. But for Microsoft's purposes simply getting gamers into the habit of using their box for something other than "Deus Ex" or "Call of Duty" is the incremental win here.