March 14, 2006 2:50 PM PST
March Madness for sale on iTunes
As part of its continued expansion into video, Apple will offer condensed versions of the 63 Division 1 men's NCAA basketball games, it said Tuesday. The games will go on sale a day after they take place for $1.99 apiece, or $19.99 for a "season pass" to all the series.
Earlier this month, Apple started offering bundled pricing for collections of TV shows from Comedy Central, as well as for its highlights of Nascar races.
With the NCAA tournament, though, Apple faces competition not only from traditional TV broadcasts, but also from other online sources. CBS has previously announced plans to show many of the basketball games for free over the Internet.
"We're not trying to replace live," iTunes Vice President Eddy Cue said in an interview. "This is about being able to get things that you've missed."
Cue noted that many of the games are taking place during working hours. "If the game was a 1 o'clock game and you're at work, which lots of us are, that may not be an option," he said. He also added that with iTunes, unlike the free streaming video, customers get to keep and own the shows. "This is a great way to get it and the only way to" own it, he said.
On another matter, Cue declined to comment on pending legislation in France that would force Apple to open up programming from iTunes to be played on non-Apple devices.
Apple opened its video operation last fall with music videos, TV shows from Disney-owned networks and short films from Pixar. The company has subsequently added new and classic shows from Disney and others, including NBC.
The company moved into sports with the Bowl Championship Series in January. It has since offered the X Games and other content from ESPN, as well as a recent boxing match that has climbed onto Apple's list of top 100 video sales.
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