Apple brings TV downloads to Oz

Local, U.S. favorites appear on iTunes Store

SYDNEY -- Apple Australia quietly launched the nation's first TV download service through its local iTunes online store service Tuesday, with content from five key international distributors and Australian broadcasters.

The first four seasons of U.S. shows "Desperate Housewives," "Grey's Anatomy" and "Lost," along with Nine Network's "Sea Patrol 2: The Coup" and the Australian Broadcasting Corp. hit "Summer Heights High " went on sale for AUS$2.99 ($2.85) an episode, just two days after the Season 4 finale of "Grey's Anatomy" on the Seven Network here.

So far, Disney's ABC Studios, the Disney Channel, MTV, Nine Network and the ABC have series available.

Sony Pictures Television International and broadcaster SBS confirmed that it will be making programs available for sale through iTunes, while other distributors and broadcasters are expected to reveal their plans for iTunes distribution in the coming weeks.

"Instant availability, competitive pricing and the compatibility of devices will be a very sharp hook for iTunes," SPTI managing director in Australia Jack Ford said.

Ford added that Sony expects that iTunes' "core of 200,000-300,000 people who regularly download songs from iTunes will readily migrate to iTunes video as they are doing elsewhere."

Australia is the fourth market worldwide to introduce the iTunes video service, following its launch in the U.S. last year and in Canada and the U.K. in recent weeks.

The launch, which was confirmed by Apple on Wednesday, comes as other DVD retailers last week announced plans to move into download to rent and download to own online services. It also follows the opening of the southern hemisphere's first Apple Store in Sydney last week.