Thursday, February 21, 2008

A Look Into the Mind of the NFL

Remember a while back when EA Sports became the exclusive holders of the permission to make video games using the NFL? Remember how everyone thought this was an example of EA trying to big-foot smaller game makers? Turns out the whole thing was the NFL's idea:

remember it wasn't EA that demanded the exclusive relationship. The NFL requested it and did a research process for exclusive bids and so EA bid, as did other companies, and we were very fortunate to be able to get that exclusive arrangement. So, I want to make that very clear because I think there are some misconceptions sometimes that EA demanded the exclusive licensing for the National Football League and nothing could be further from the case.

I wonder why the NFL would want that.

Update: Incredibly astute Galley Reader J.T. sends in the following thoughts, which seem persuasive to me:

The NFL's desire to have an exclusive game studio producing NFL titles
gives it fewer licensing agreements, in exchange for greater unity of
game play. By having one shop, the NFL can maintain more control over
the product, and should they choose to bring the game development in
house, they only have one organization that they need to absorb.

The NFL Network is a more visible effort of the same strategy. Because
television networks have more perceived control of branding than video
game studios, the effort is more protracted and necessarily slower. I
would expect the NFL to move in the direction of software development
within two to three years. They will still be transitioning to
exclusive NFL Network production of games ten years from now, but the
ultimate goal of the NFL is to get all media in house, to fully
appreciate the benefits of a vertically integrated business model.

That's just my hunch. The NFL has always been much better at marketing
and giving exclusive control of channels to single entities seems a
smarter strategy of developing brand power and maximizing the marginal
revenue within that channel. If my eventual goal was controlling the
means by which consumers consume my product I would familiarize them
first with exclusives (like DirecTV). By requesting an exclusive
partner for game development, the league continues that trend. The
imbroglio surrounding the Pats-Giants regular season game on the NFL
Network was a setback for that strategy, but the game itself was what
the NFL is shooting for. A must see game, under their exclusive control.

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