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Mailbag: Are other college sports video games coming? Not exactly

Good morning, and thanks for spending part of your day with Extra Points.

I'm working on a few other reported newsletters that I think could use a teensy bit more time in the oven (i.e, I'd like to make more phone calls). It's been a few weeks since we did a mailbag, and I ended up with lots of questions on Twitter...so why not do a mailbag?

If you have a question, you can always email me at [email protected].

Let's answer some questions!

I get this question a lot. Well, not the stuff about MVFC football. I don't have any knowledge on any particularly interesting rumors on that front. But I do get asked about other video games pretty often.

Here's everything I know about non-EA Sports College Football video games.

I have no reason to believe that EA, 2K, or any other AAA video game publisher is actively working on any officially licensed college sports game right now. I've never seen anything come up in any sponsorship emails, any AD conversation, or with licensing companies, nor have I heard anything from mainstream video game reporters.

However, I've had several high-level folks in the collegiate licensing industry tell me they are very bullish on college athlete digital IP in the future. Creating the infrastructure around college athlete group licenses, I'm told, is a pretty huge pain in the ass, given the sheer number of entities licensing agents have to work with (as opposed to say, the Player's Union of a professional sports league). However, once a structure is built once, industry sources have told me it doesn't need to be rebuilt every time, and it would suddenly become much easier to include college athlete assets in existing sports titles.

One possibility floated to me by an executive directly working in this space? Expansion of current college athlete likenesses (and university IP) in the NVA2K series, or potentially even in MLB: The Show, FIFA (or EA FC), etc.

Based on what I know now, I imagine that is more likely in the near future than a wholesale restoration of AAA-caliber college basketball games (or any other sport).

On that note...

So I'll preface this by saying that to the best of my knowledge, an arrangement to do this for the EA Sports College Football project has not yet been finalized, although those conversations are ongoing.

Industry professionals have told me to expect structures similar to how group licensing currently exists in the college sports space, for products like jerseys, shirts, and most recently, trading cards.

A group of athletes is presented with an offer, that the athlete could voluntarily opt into. For many current products, the offer would provide some upfront payment, along with a percentage of products solid. I'm told for video games, it is overwhelmingly likely that the flat rate will be the same for the vast majority of athletes. The biggest logistical challenge simply signing up all of the athletes.

My best guess right now is that eventually, EA ends up technically offering multiple NIL contracts, (one deal for athletes via Brandr, one deal via One Team Partners, maybe one team that partners with an INFLCR or Opendorse, etc), with the terms of the deals being essentially identical.

It's a big lift, one made more complicated by legal and business changes that have nothing to do with NIL and video games, but one everybody I've talked to believes will be resolved with plenty of time to spare before launch of the game.

As best as I understand it, the Pac-12 Network has a few pretty significant problems. The largest is a distribution problem...it's not part of the basic cable packages of the largest national cable networks, and it isn't on DirectTV. If you live out of the Pac-12 footprint (or hell, even if you're in it), it's hard to find.

Poor distribution means you're not making big money from carriage fees, and you aren't attracting big ratings to sell expensive ads. Add that into the fact that the Pac-12's infrastructure costs were really high, and you have a bad situation. It's almost impossible to imagine how that situation improves with two of their most important brands, USC and UCLA, departing.

I'm skeptical that the entire service goes completely dark because there are still important assets out there. There are studios, cameras, real estate, talent, etc, to say nothing of IP that still has some value. But you can't realize that value without distribution, and the most likely solution to those distribution problems would involve partnering with a huge larger entity, like ESPN.

The idea of the network remaining completely independent, owned and operated only by the Pac-12 Conference, probably wasn't practical moving forward even with USC and UCLA still in the fold. Without them, I don't see how it is possible.

I answered this one on Twitter, (yes), but for those that are unfamiliar, I thought it might be useful to explain a little more about why the Big Ten is going to make SEC-level money on TV.

After all, TV value isn't really about strength on the football field. The SEC is the best college football conference, not the Big Ten. TV value is about other factors.

Part of this is about markets. The four largest TV markets in the country are New York, LA, Chicago, and Philadelphia, all markets in the Big Ten footprint. Eight of the top 20 markets are in Big Ten country.. The SEC can claim Dallas (#5), Atlanta (#7), Houston (#8), Tampa (#13), Orlando (17), and maybe Miami (18).

To put the scale in perspective here, New York has 7,452,620 TV sets. Dallas, Atlanta and Orlando combined have 7,342,850.

The total Big Ten footprint TV set advantage is significant, well into the millions, even when you consider the fact that college football is much more popular on a per capita basis in Atlanta than it is in New York.

Big Ten institutions also tend to be larger than their SEC peers, which means larger alumni pools. My alma mater, Ohio State, reports over 500,000 living alumni. So do Penn State, Michigan, and Indiana. Unistats reports there are over 500,000 students currently enrolled at Big Ten schools, not counting the LA newcomers, which is about 100K more than the SEC. Those numbers add up.

Finally, and this is not quite as easily quantified, many Big Ten schools boast fanbases that are more national in scope than SEC institutions. Population migration out of the midwest over the last 30 years has led to plenty of Ohio State, Michigan, and Iowa fans setting up shop in the South and West. Plus, decades and decades and decades of tradition and success led to fans well outside the footprint adopting them.

You can probably find a Buckeye or a Wolverine bar in just about every major US city, after all.

Add that all up, and it means big bucks for broadcasting partners, even if the best high school players are outside the Big Ten footprint, and the best college football programs are increasingly out of that footprint as well.

This industry is insane. What NBC offers may depend, in part, on NBC's involvement with the Big Ten's TV rights in this next deal. But let's also remember, here are a handful of schools that Notre Dame is currently scheduled to face at home after 2025:

  • Texas A&M

  • Louisville

  • Michigan State

  • Clemson

  • Miami

  • Virginia Tech

  • Alabama

To say nothing of games against USC, Stanford and Navy every season. That's really valuable inventory, and premium live sports programming is only becoming more valuable, not less. Notre Dame securing an enormous bag, be that from NBC, the Big Ten, or anybody else, would not surprise me at all.

Will that final number seem silly? Yeah, probably. But we live in a world where UCLA is in the Big Ten, BYU, UCF and WVU share a conference, and coach buyout numbers approach the GDP of developing countries. Nothing matters. Money isn't real.

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To sponsor a future Extra Points newsletter, please email [email protected]. For article ideas, newsletter feedback, FOIA tips, athlete NIL sponsorships and more, I'm at [email protected], or @MattBrownEP on Twitter, and @ExtraPointsMB on Instagram.

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