IPod courts sports, Hollywood

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Remember the days when iPods were used to play music? They may soon be a distant memory.

Apple quickly followed music with audio books, of course, and most recently with TV video content. Coming soon: sports highlights, movie clips and ad content that will transform the popular portable devices into true multimedia machines.

Apple is in talks with all of the major sports leagues about picking up game clips and related video footage, including the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, National Football League, National Hockey League and Nascar. And the iPod is quickly becoming the platform of choice for Hollywood film studios looking to promote their latest big-budget movies.

"We're really focused on putting our content in front of our fans, and iPod and some of the other portable video devices are really interesting," said Scott Grimes, director of interactive services for the NBA.

The NBA last week announced NBA TV Broadband, an advertiser-supported broadband-video product that offers free access to NBA highlights. Marketers involved include presenting sponsor Toyota Motor Corp., as well as Reebok, Nike, Converse and Sony PlayStation. Fans can have video highlights delivered to their desktops through Video RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds. The league will also offer NBA TV Zap, a two- to three-minute highlight package than can be downloaded onto any portable video device.

MLB, NHL and Nascar also said they will also evaluate the opportunity to produce content for iPods.

On the heels of a deal to offer certain ABC TV shows on its new video iPod for a small fee, Apple is also signing up film studios to use the device to promote their films. NBC Universal's Universal Pictures is the first in, providing free downloads of its trailer for Peter Jackson's "King Kong," hitting theaters Dec. 14.

Against the backdrop of a prolonged box-office slump, studio executives said they must quickly adapt to media outlets popular among the 18-to-34-year-olds who are their core audience.

Walt Disney Co. will use the video iPod to promote "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," one of the studio's tent-pole releases for 2006, and for "every trailer after that from now on," said Oren Aviv, president of Buena Vista Pictures Marketing.

DreamWorks SKG is creating an iTunes podcast for the upcoming movie "Match Point." Said studio marketing executive Mike Vollman, "If even two people download your trailer, that's two more than you might've had otherwise."

Word is iPods can still be used to listen to music, too.

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