Disney Gets Deeper Into Downloads

The recent addition of ABC, ESPN and other Disney-owned properties to Apple’s iTunes media service is just the latest move in the studio’s aggressive push to increase digital delivery of its valuable content.

Disney’s willingness to make its content available the way consumers want it — particularly via Apple’s iPod — bodes well for the company’s future in the digital-entertainment arena. Success there has eluded many media giants, but it remains among the hottest markets for content today.

“Clearly, what you’re seeing is a realization that the consumer is at the center of all of this,” Gartner research director Mike McGuire told TechNewsWorld. “A significant number [of consumers] feel they’re a better programmer than anybody in the media industry.”

Buffing the Apple

The deal announced at the start of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas means ABC News, Sports and ESPN content — including lightweight versions of recent college bowl games, including the Fiesta and Sugar Bowls — will be available through Apple’s iTunes beginning this week.

Building on an earlier deal to provide Disney’s ABC TV shows — including “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives” — on iTunes, the expanded content agreement will soon offer additional Disney video programming, the companies said.

The deal was widely viewed as a win for iTunes, which is bulking up its video offerings with other deals, including a video agreement with NBC, since its launch last fall.

Leveraging Content

The latest deal was a natural evolution of the two companies’ past collaboration as they search for the right combination of content, distribution system and device, Gartenberg said.

“It’s not surprising we’re seeing more participation by Disney in Apple’s efforts, because they’ve worked well together so far,” he added.

It will be interesting to see if Disney’s content finds its way to other services and devices, but the iTunes move, in any case, shows there is recognition of the value of digitized content, he pointed out.

“The best technology solutions in the world are not worth much without good content,” Gartenberg emphasized. “Disney knows it can gain from being part of the ecosystem.”

Letting Users Decide

Disney is just starting to take advantage of the opportunity in digital delivery, said Gartner’s McGuire.

“They’re providing it in a form and way the consumer wants to get it, wherever they are,” he said.

Letting users — “instead of a bunch of programming executives” — choose is a winning strategy with great appeal to consumers, McGuire suggested.

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