The National Football League and NFL Players Association have signed extensions with Electronic Arts that continue to grant the video game developer exclusive simulation rights through at least 2025 with an option for the following year.
EA’s prior NFL rights contract, enabling the widely popular “Madden NFL” game franchise, was due to expire following the 2021 season. And in March, rival game developer Take-Two Interactive returned to NFL gaming for the first time in more than 15 years with a non-simulation rights deal that was seen at the time as a potential forerunner toward a larger agreement.
But less than three months later, EA instead has again locked up exclusive simulation rights in a deal described by the parties as the “biggest and widest-reaching gaming agreement in NFL history.”
In addition to continuing the “Madden NFL” franchise deep into its fourth decade, EA will collaborate with the NFL and other league partners on integrating gaming into numerous other areas of digital marketing and fan engagement. Planned areas of collaboration are likely to venture into areas such as esports, social media, and broadcast integrations.
“The expansion of this partnership is not only about the continued success of the ‘Madden NFL’ franchise but also the creation of new avenues for our fans to connect with the sport they love,” said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
Financial terms were not disclosed, though multiple sources pointed to the deal being worth least $1.5bn total to the league and the players. EA has held the NFL’s exclusive simulation gaming rights since 2004.
The NFLPA, for its part, in reported $56.8m in payments from EA for the year ended February 28, 2019, and it is expected royalties to players will expand further in the new term.
The extension also grants EA non-exclusive rights to develop NFL-licensed games in non-simulation categories, areas where it will likely compete directly with Take-Two.
The EA extension also represents the first deal negotiated for the NFLPA by OneTeam Partners, the new outfit created by the union, along with with RedBird Capital and the MLB Players Association, to offer multi-sport athlete commercialization.
“We have a shared vision to expand the fanbase of football through interactivity, and we’re thrilled to continue our strong partnership with EA to bring this to life in more ways than ever,” said DeMaurice Smith, NFLPA executive director and OneTeam Partners co-chair.
Brian Rolapp, NFL chief media and business officer, said the league did consider opening up the simulation rights to multiple companies, but EA ultimately prevailed in continuing along the same exclusive model, albeit now with much wider ambitions.
“EA made the most compelling case and beat out the competition pretty soundly,” Rolapp said.