EA scores NCAA Football rights

Following in the footsteps of its pro cousin, college football deals exclusive rights to software giant; six-year agreement begins this year.

It was only a matter of time. Today, Redwood City-based publisher Electronic Arts announced an exclusive deal with the Collegiate Licensing Company for the exclusive rights to NCAA-themed football games. Under the agreement, EA will be the only publisher allowed to use NCAA brands in console and handheld games.

The deal, which does not cover any other NCAA-sanctioned sports, begins this year and is locked up over the next six years. The financial terms of the agreement were not made public.

"When we began our analysis of the video game landscape, it became apparent that EA Sports was best positioned from a marketing and development perspective to maximize the sales opportunities for college football," said Pat Battle, CEO of the Collegiate Licensing Company.

Over the last few months, publishers have been scrambling for sports licenses like linemen trying to recover goal-line fumbles. The loudest move came last December, when EA secured the exclusive rights to the National Football League with a five-year deal. Staying on the gridiron, EA then acquired the rights to the Arena Football League.

Take-Two Interactive, which, following today's announcement, is now effectively shut out of the licensed football gaming market, turned its eyes to America's pastime and scored third-party exclusivity rights to Major League Baseball late last January.

The National Basketball Association shunned ideas of exclusivity and renewed its licensing deals with publishers EA, Take-Two, Midway Games, Sony, and Atari.

With the next tide of consoles set to begin debuting over the next few years, it's likely these exclusive deals will last through each console's lifetime, making them particularly important to the future of sports gaming.

EA has been publishing college football titles since the mid '90s. NCAA Football 2006, the first game under the contract, is scheduled for a summer release. No platforms have yet been announced.

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