'Degrassi' downloads make way home

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TORONTO -- Canadian producer Epitome Pictures said Monday that it has partnered with Puretracks.com to make teen drama "Degrassi: The Next Generation" the first homegrown TV show available for legal download in Canada.

Chris Jackson, director of digital media and merchandising at Toronto-based Epitome, said that the third season of "Degrassi: The Next Generation" is now for sale at Puretracks.com for CAN$1.99 ($1.85) per episode or CAN$29.99 ($28.30) for a whole season.

Terms of the distribution deal were not disclosed but King said the revenue split between Epitome and Puretracks is in line with the industry standard.

Also sharing in revenue from pay-per-view downloading is Canadian broadcaster CTV, which airs "Degrassi: The Next Generation" in Canada and has an equity stake in the series, and Alliance Atlantis Communications, which distributes the teen drama internationally.

U.S. fans of the show, which follows the adventures of Toronto high school students and airs on cable network the N stateside, have been able to legally download the Canadian TV series on iTunes since September 2006.

But geogating of iTunes meant Canadians were unable to buy episodes on the U.S.-based iTunes Music Store.

"We heard a lot of feedback and that our (Canadian) audience wanted a legal way to take Degrassi with them on their MP3 players," Jackson said.

Once downloaded, episodes of "Degrassi: The Next Generation" can be played on three separate platforms: desktop computers, laptops and MP3 players.

At the same time, DRM technology will bar file-sharing.

In offering a new revenue stream for Epitome and its partners, Jackson said that Puretracks.com deal represents a watershed moment for the popular teen drama, which airs in 150 markets worldwide.

"Do I expect a huge cash windfall in the near future? No, But the 'Degrassi' business is incremental, and we want to sharpen our elbows and establish space in any channel that our fan base would want to find 'Degrassi' on," he said.
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