Disney chiefs back iTunes as NBC removes programmes

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Exclusive: Disney Channel executives have reiterated their commitment to selling their programmes through Apple’s iTunes download store, despite NBC Universal announcing that it will not be renewing its contract with the service.

NBC Universal – which currently sells its hit shows, including Heroes, The Office and Scrubs, to American iTunes users – has elected not to continue its arrangement with Apple when their current agreement expires in December. The company is believed to have made the decision in a dispute over Apple’s pricing policy.

However, in an exclusive interview with The Stage, senior Disney Channel executives cited availability of their programmes for download as an important part of the company’s brand.

Rob Gilby, managing director of Disney Channel UK, which started selling shows to UK customers this week, said: “Giving people a choice of where, when and how they access our programming is important to us. If they want it on their iPod, we’re going to give it to them on their iPod.”

Gary Marsh, president of entertainment for Disney Channel Worldwide, said that in the US its children’s programmes, including Hannah Montana and the Suite Life of Zach and Cody, regularly featured in the iTunes top 15 of programmes sold on an episode by episode basis.

“Concurrent with that, we’ve never had higher ratings. For the last five months prior to August, we’ve had our highest months ever. Clearly the availability of these programmes [on iTunes] if anything is helping the linear channel,” he said.

Apple commenced the sale of television programmes to UK visitors earlier this week. As well as Disney Channel, broadcasters selling their shows include the Disney-owned ABC network and UK channel Paramount Comedy.

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