ESPN pregame spotlights Madden

EA Sports to sponsor pregame show, but does it step on Sega's toes?

EA Sports announced today that it will sponsor the EA Sports NFL Matchup Show, set to debut this week. The spots will take place during ESPN's Weekly NFL pregame show and will air on ESPN and ESPN2 four times every weekend for the next 22 weeks.

According to EA Sports, hosts Merril Hoge, Ron Jaworski, and Suzy Kolber will use footage of EA Sports' Madden NFL 2004 game (version unspecified) as a visual aid in helping to explain and illustrate NFL strategy and matchups.

Viewers can also go to www.easports.com to e-mail questions to the hosts. One question will be answered on air each week at the pregame show's conclusion.

Previously with Fox, John Madden is an analyst and sportscaster with ABC, a network with whom ESPN has a broadcasting partnership across various sports events. The use of EA's Madden football license presents no problem. However, EA Sports' sponsorship of an ESPN show calls into question Sega's current exclusive multiyear licensing deal with the sports network, announced last year (after Konami ceased use of the license for its sports games).

Under the current partnership's terms, Sega agreed to brand its sports games "ESPN Videogames," and ESPN was to maximize the "on-air integration of ESPN Videogames with ESPN programming or through promotional and event tie-ins."

ESPN Videogames is supported by an advertising campaign that airs commercials on the network. However, there is no contractual agreement that prevents video games from publishers other than Sega from being featured in commercial ads on ESPN.

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