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Disney signs deal for Xbox film downloads

Times Staff Writers

Video gamers now can watch Disney movies through their Xbox 360 game systems, thanks to a deal that Microsoft Corp. and Walt Disney Co. announced Tuesday.

The agreement gives the Burbank studio access to the 7 million tech-savvy gamers and voracious media consumers who use Microsoft’s online service, Xbox Live, to download television shows, watch high-definition movies and purchase games.

“I think we’re going to do very well with the Xbox customers,” said Dan Cohen, executive vice president of pay television and interactive media for Disney-ABC Domestic Television.

The video-on-demand deal also could help Disney fend off piracy by offering consumers a convenient, legal way to get movies, said James McQuivey, a principal analyst with Forrester Research.

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“Piracy is something that Disney wants to make sure it can nip in the bud,” he said.

The deal furthers Microsoft’s promise of delivering digital entertainment, on demand, to millions of living rooms via its game consoles.

Since launching the video download service in 2006, Microsoft has garnered $125 million in revenue from movie rentals, sales of TV shows and video game purchases, said Peter Moore, vice president of Microsoft’s interactive entertainment division.

Unlike many movie download services that require consumers to access them through personal computers, McQuivey said, Xbox Live is “connected to the TV, and that’s where people actually want to watch movies.”

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Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft offers 192 movies from Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures, Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. and New Line Cinema through Xbox 360, as well as 179 television series, including “Friends” and “South Park.”

The agreement with Disney added 35 movies, such as “The Queen,” “Deja Vu,” and “Bridge to Terabithia,” from Disney’s Miramax, Touchstone Pictures, Hollywood Pictures and Walt Disney Pictures. The slate of movies will be refreshed as new releases become available, Cohen said.

Disney will fill out the roster with a selection of its classic films.

Xbox Live’s users can rent high-definition versions of new release movies for $6, or $4 for standard definition. Older movies are $4.50 for high definition, $3 for standard.

Once downloaded, consumers have 14 days to begin watching the films before they are erased from the console’s hard disk drive.

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alex.pham@latimes.com

dawn.chmielewski@latimes.com

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