Disney expands downloads

Adds sports, news to iTunes

The Walt Disney Co. has turned a digital spigot into a fire hose, broadening its offerings on Apple’s iTunes to include sports, news and animated shorts from the Walt Disney library.

Expanded offering comes as NBC Universal trumped ABC’s groundbreaking iTunes deal for “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives” by inking a much broader deal with Apple that has bombarded the service with NBC network fare such as “The Office” as well as content from NBC U cable properties Sci Fi and USA and the Universal syndie library.

Disney’s ESPN and ABC Sports will be the first to test the viability of sporting events on the service by offering condensed versions of the Fiesta, Sugar, Orange and Rose Bowls the day after they air.

College football’s national title game matchup between USC and the U. of Texas will be uploaded Thursday.

Offering will test how many die-hard sports fans will opt to pay $1.99 for the privilege just a day after the live version aired.

“Our mission is to serve fans wherever they are,” said ESPN and ABC Sports topper George Bodenheimer.

Disney’s is the latest in what promises to be a litany of similar announcements in the coming months as the networks package shows to feed the growing video iPod nation.

CBS hasn’t yet done an iPod deal, choosing instead to focus on wireless with Verizon’s V-Cast service, but digital topper Larry Kramer has said that CBS is in talks with several potential partners, including Apple.

The nets view downloads not just as a potential revenue stream but as a promotional device to boost the cachet of shows. NBC’s “The Office” isn’t a primetime hit, but it dominates the list of most popular shows on iTunes.

In addition to sports, Disney will upload ABC Family’s “Wildfire,” Disney Channel’s “Kim Possible” and “The Proud Family” and Touchstone fare including “America’s Funniest Home Videos” and the 1970s Saturday morning “School House Rock” series.

Walt Disney Feature Animation will chip in the classic “Three Little Pigs” from 1933 and “The Tortoise and the Hare” from 1935.

All offerings will remain at the $1.99 price point except for news, which will be offered in the form of ad-supported video podcasts.

ABC News will contribute downloadable segments from “Good Morning America,” “World News Tonight” and shows from broadband service ABC News Now.

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