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Thursday, November 09, 2006, 04:10 pm PT (07:10 pm ET)

Disney sells nearly a half million films through iTunes

Walt Disney Co. said Thursday it has sold nearly a half million films through Apple Computer's iTunes store since announcing the distribution deal a little less than two months ago.

The sales figure, which amounts to approximately $4 million in revenue, was announced during the entertainment conglomerate's fiscal fourth quarter conference call with analysts and members of the media.

Disney said it expects movie downloads to generate $50 million in added revenue during the first year of the program.

It started by making 75 movies available on iTunes service in Sept. and recently announced plans to add the No. 1 animated film of the year, Cars, and the No. 1 film of the year, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest.

With half a million sales in just under eight weeks, customers are purchasing approximately 62,500 movies from Apple's iTunes store each week, or just shy of 9,000 each day.

"This underlines the strength and uniqueness of our film library, and indicates there is a consumer appetite for movie downloads that complements demand for DVDs," said president and chief executive Robert Iger.

Thus far, Disney is the only major motion picture studio who has agreed to sell its films through the ubiquitous iTunes service. However, News Corp's. Fox Entertainment Group and independent Lions Gates are reported to be in ongoing negotiations with Apple about making their catalog of films available to iTunes customers.

In beating Wall Street's expectations, Disney said earnings per share for the fourth quarter increased 89 percent to $0.36, compared to $0.19 in the year-ago quarter. Profits doubled from $379 million to $782 million.

"Disney had a spectacular year, posting record revenues, record net income, and record cash flow," Iger said. "It is a result of the incredible creativity at our company."

Iger added that the company is close to wrapping up a digital distribution deal with Comcast that would likely result in the delivery of new shows to both the provider's cable and online customers.