Idol, meet iPod.

Apple has become a signature sponsor for “American Idol,” acquiring exclusive audio and video performance download rights to the hit Fox competish.

Effective immediately, “Idol” downloads will now only be available on Apple’s iTunes store. Also, iTunes will sponsor online streaming of contestant performances on the official “American Idol” website, where it will also have a substantial branded presence.

On the show, Apple’s iPod becomes the official digital music player for “Idol,” while the iPhone becomes the show’s official handset. (AT&T, the iPhone’s exclusive service provider, already is an “Idol” signature sponsor.)

Apple brands will also be integrated into the show — get ready to see Simon subtly checking his iPhone during the show.

FremantleMedia North America and 19 Entertainment are behind “American Idol.” Producers credited the close relationship between 19’s Simon Fuller and Apple topper Steve Jobs for sparking the deal.

“We think ‘American Idol’ viewers are going to love the ability to purchase and download ‘Idol’ performaces from iTunes,” said Apple iTunes VP Eddy Cue.

An “Idol” special section has been created on the iTunes Store. Starting this week, music performances from the top 24 “Idol” semifinalists will be sold for 99 cents person.

Then, starting March 11, video of top 12 finalist performances will be sold for $1.99.

Also, starting immediately, iTunes users can pre-order performances, which will be downloaded the day after the show airs.

Apple now joins the roster of other major “Idol” sponsors: Coke, AT&T and Ford.