Disney Turns to Windows Media for Protection

Microsoft’s aggressive push digital content market got a major boost Monday with the announcement of a multiyear pact with the Walt Disney Company to securely distribute Disney entertainment on the Internet and on portable devices.

Disney, which already hawks movie rentals on the MovieLink online movie distribution service, plans to license Microsoft’s proprietary Windows Media DRM technology to protect a wide range of digital products, including animation, movies and television programming from its ABC and ESPN properties.

The companies did not provide specifics but it’s not a stretch to imagine Windows Media will be the default distribution technology for Disney’s content. It’s also likely that Microsoft’s flagship Windows Media Player will be the preferred playback mechanism on Disney’s Web offerings. Financial terms of the non-exclusive deal were not released.

Disney’s ESPN.com is already tightly integrated by Microsoft’s MSN portal and the latest partnership could lead to Microsoft targeting the lucrative but tricky sports content space.

By inking a non-exclusive agreement, Disney leaves the door open to future partnerships with competing DRM technologies from Microsoft rivals like RealNetworks .

According to Microsoft, the two sides will cooperate on long-term digital media initiatives to improve the quality, security and reach of digital content within the home and on Microsoft Windows XP-based PCs.

Disney will also use Microsoft Windows Media technology in order to shuttle content to a range of home and portable entertainment devices.

Initially, Microsoft and Disney will work on creating and securely delivering high-definition digital content and speeding up the flow of media over networks and future digital devices, like high-definition DVD players and Microsoft’s new Portable Media Center.

According to Disney’s chief strategic officer Peter Murphy, the Windows Media pact will help facilitate new business initiatives.

“The continuing migration of content from analog to digital formats has exciting implications for both consumers and content owners, and we believe this agreement will accelerate this evolution and bring about a vibrant market for legitimate, high-quality entertainment delivered to new categories of end-user devices, such as personal media players and home media center PCs,” Murphy said in a statement.

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