Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) and the producers behind American Idol have teamed up to sell clips from the show in Apple's iTunes store. And the people at Fox don't like it at all.

The Idol partnership gets top billing on, but barely gets a news blurb on the show's homepage. Presumably, News Corp. (NYSE: NWS) is none too happy to see the goose that lays its golden eggs roosting in other nests, but FremantleMedia and 19 Entertainment don't seem to care. The time to monetize Idol is now, before the audience tires of annual William Hung wannabes, and before there are fewer of the entertaining Sanjayas and more of the flat-as-a-pancake Elliott Yamins.

Of course, I won't be surprised to see this particular media partnership fizzle out quickly. You could pay $0.99 for each audio-only version of performances on iTunes, or $1.99 per video clip. Or, trudge on over to Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG) YouTube and find dozens of clips of Idolette Carly Smithson for free. The video quality is lower, but you can't beat the price. Even better: Set your TiVo (Nasdaq: TIVO) or equivalent gadget (even an old VHS player would work) to record the whole show. The return on that one-dollar investment doesn't look too tasty, does it?

Drop the audio-only price tag to about a dime, and a few show fans might bite. A quarter for the videos sounds feasible. But the current prices are way too steep. Just don't come back later and point to this failure as an indictment of download models in general. Napster (Nasdaq: NAPS) and RealNetworks (Nasdaq: RNWK) could be huge too, if only they were allowed to implement the business models they really want to run.

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