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Merger Between EA, NBCU Fails; Which Other Streamer Could Acquire Video Game Giant?

Jeff Kotuby

Electronic Arts — EA for short — has long been one of the preeminent players in the video games industry. You’ve likely played an EA game at least once in your life, especially if you’re a sports fan. Recently, it was revealed that EA has aspirations beyond gaming when it attempted to merge with NBCUniversal in a deal that ultimately fell short.

According to Front Office Sports, the deal for NBCU to acquire EA fell through due to price and structure disagreements.

But it is clear that EA is open for business and wants to be acquired or merged in a similar fashion to Microsoft’s recent buyout of Activision Blizzard. The only question is — who has the cash to make a move for EA? There are three names that we think could be in play to give EA its life raft and they all would have implications on streaming.

With streaming services looking to diversify their offerings in efforts to improve customer retention as subscriber churn increases, games have become an important investment area for Netflix and as the entertainment landscape has become saturated with superhero content, many inside the industry believe that video game inspired programming is the next major content category.

Disney

A Disney partnership for EA makes sense on multiple fronts. First off, EA and Disney have done work in the past and continue to collaborate today. EA owns the rights to games based on the Star Wars universe and published the last two “Star Wars Battlefront” games, along with “Jedi: Fallen Order” and “Squadrons.”

EA also published some of Disney Interactive’s titles throughout the 2000s and into the 2010s before the studio was closed in 2013. Disney could funnel more of its properties into EA as a reliable game publisher and developer.

There’s also synergy between EA Sports and Disney, the latter of which owns ESPN. Disney could show off their shiny new toys Joe Buck and Troy Aikman in EA’s “Madden” series and can also use the voices of Sean McDonough and Ray Ferraro for its “NHL” games, creating a cohesive brand synergy that would be difficult to beat. Plus, maybe we’ll get to see “MVP Baseball” return with Karl Ravech on the call?

With the return of EA’s NCAA Football game expected in 2023 or 2024, ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit, Rece Davis, and David Pollack could make a return after being featured in the final incarnation of the game back in 2013.

If Disney were to look to mine EA’s library for new programming, while the company’s stellar first-party titles “Dragon Age” and “Mass Effect,” which are rated M for Mature (ages 17+), might present a problem for the more family-friendly Disney+, they could be great opportunities for Hulu. Perhaps an “Apex Legends” series, a T-rated game, would be more in line for Disney+?

Either way, the content overlaps between Disney’s current investments in Star Wars and sports would make for an easy integration of EA games.

Amazon

Like ESPN, Amazon would love to show off its new broadcasting toys, by having the new voices of “Thursday Night Football” Herbstreit and Al Michaels become the new announcers of the “Madden” franchise. Michaels already lent his voice to the “Madden” games years ago, hosting the action alongside the game’s namesake and former broadcast partner John Madden, so his return would likely be welcomed by many longtime players.

Amazon also has its own games division, and is home to games like the popular MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role-playing games) “Lost Ark” and “New World,” but would certainly love to flesh out its catalog with EA titles like “Dragon Age,” “Mass Effect,” and the sports games similar to what it did with its movie library with the purchase of MGM earlier this year.

Speaking of EA’s RPGs, the company’s various role-playing franchises would be prime candidates for movie or show adaptations on Amazon Prime Video. Netflix has seen success with its “The Witcher” series, which lives in the same fantasy realm as “Dragon Age,” and the “Mass Effect” series presents an interesting opportunity for Amazon to try its hand at a space-themed drama.

Netflix

Admittedly, Netflix is a bit of a longshot — but it makes sense when you consider the company’s current direction toward interactive media. Netflix is still committed to gaming despite the recent dip in subscribers, with co-CEO Reed Hastings calling it a “top-level priority” for the company.

EA already publishes mobile titles in conjunction with its console and PC releases, and its library includes games from the “Madden,” “FIFA,” “Apex Legends,” “Need For Speed,” “Plants vs. Zombies,” and “Star Wars” universes, among others. The natural synergy between the companies given Netflix’s increased interest in gaming makes perfect sense.

For Netflix, like Amazon, EA also presents an opportunity to create movies and shows from its game properties. While we likely won’t see any “Star Wars” shows on Netflix for the time being, a “Dragon Age” series living in the same cinematic universe as “The Witcher” (which was also a video game property first) could be just the type of franchise IP that Netflix needs to fight its recent subscriber loses.

Also, a “Mass Effect” drama a la “Lost in Space” could bring hardcore gamers and casual viewers alike into the fold. At the very least, Netflix has experience working with video game properties in a way that Amazon doesn’t, which could potentially give them a leg up.

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