Is Disney Cheating on Apple with Microsoft?

Is Disney Cheating on Apple with Microsoft?

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is going to be a pretty big deal for Disney next week, and the entertainment giant is hoping to build an early audience by offering the first scene of the new show exclusively through Microsoft's Xbox Video now.

This may not seem like such a big deal, but let's backtrack a bit.

Microsoft and Apple are mortal enemies, even though these days they're both losing ground to Google.

Apple and Disney are chummy. Disney was the first major studio to sell its videos through iTunes. After Disney acquired Pixar, Steve Jobs became Disney's largest individual shareholder. Why is Disney going with Microsoft here? It could have tied this exclusive sneak peak with yesterday's rollout of iOS 7.

Going through Microsoft here seems just as sacrilegious as making it available to Google's even larger YouTube audience.

It's easy to see why Xbox Video makes sense for Apple here. There were a whopping 46 million Xbox Live users earlier this year. I also wouldn't be going out on too big a limb by suggesting that the demographics of Xbox's diehard gamers are fairly similar to the folks that will be tuning in when Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. debuts next Tuesday.

The pairing of Disney and Microsoft may seem odd, but it makes perfect sense here. Apple certainly could've thrown its hat into the gaming ring if it wanted to, and one can even argue that it may be moving in that direction. Apple showed off how the improved iPhone 5s' enhanced display and processing power can make gaming better on the new smartphone that hits the market on Friday.

However, until Apple can whip up an army of 46 million gamers, it's hard to fault Disney's decision here.

Disney can't afford to blow this. Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will be huge for the House of Mouse if it's a hit. It's airing on Disney's own ABC on Tuesday nights. That's double dipping right there! The show will also give the media giant a great place to test out some of Marvel's more obscure characters that may eventually blow up on the big screen. Once that happens, Disney's pixie dust kicks in, translating a hot property into theme park attractions, Disney Store merchandise, and perhaps even spinoffs on one of Disney's many cable properties.

It may not seem that important now, but this could be the most important show that Disney has ever put out if it's a springboard for monetizing Marvel's wide portfolio of characters.

Disney and Apple will still be tight after this. You have to have open relationships in business. If Apple can't give Disney what it wants, you can't blame it for turning to Microsoft's Xbox growing base of users or the even more substantial Google YouTube community.

It's the right call.

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns shares of Walt Disney. The Motley Fool recommends Apple, Google, and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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