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Remember the good old days when companies launched a new cable channel or TV show with flashy billboards alongside the interstate? Well, the new place for promoting TV channels, it seems, is the digital highway. At least that's the way Walt Disney (DIS) seems to be marketing its latest offering, Disney XD, a new cable channel that will launch on Feb. 13.
Disney XD, which replaces Disney's cartoon-centric Toon Disney basic cable channel, intends to build interest by seeding shows on such diverse digital outlets as iTunes, the Xbox360 game player, and cell phones, as well as on various Disney-owned outlets such as its Disney Channel. The channel is aimed primarily at guys, aged 6 to 14, and at its launch is expected to be seen in as many as 72 million of the country's more than 105 million TV households. Along with the new cable channel, Disney will launch Disney XD.com, a site that will feature games, including one in which you can create your own 3D avatar.
Disney plans to make heavy use of iTunes, the Apple (AAPL) download site that has often been a Disney partner in showing movies and TV shows. (Apple CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs sits on the Disney board and owns a 7.3% stake in the company.) Two weeks before the channel launches, Disney will start rolling out preview episodes of three of its episodes free of charge on the Apple service—a live-action adventure series, Aaron Stone, about a teen crime fighter; an animated comedy series, Kid Knivel, about a daredevil; and an alien comedy series called Kid vs. Kat. A week after its Jan. 20 debut on iTunes, Aaron Stone will also be available free of charge on Microsoft's (MSFT) Xbox 360.
Disney intends to bring in other partners when it officially launches the channel. When the Aaron Stone show premieres on Disney XD, it will be simulcast on the flagship Disney Channel and on the wireless networks Sprint TV and MobiTV. Aaron Stone will also be available as a video-on-demand offering through Comcast and Verizon's FIOS service. Down the road, Disney expects to add some high-profile content, including animated shows featuring Spider-Man and Iron Man from Marvel (MVL) and Batman and Superman from Time Warner's (TWX) DC Comics unit.
Grover is Los Angeles bureau chief for BusinessWeek.