EA pays ESPN

Last week, videogame company Electronic Arts (EA) agreed to pay ESPN between $750 million and $850 million for the rights to use the ESPN brand on at least nine sports, including baseball, basketball and football, for the next 15 years. The announcement is the culmination of an interesting year between the two companies. When ESPN rolled out its 2005 titles (like NFL2K5), it threw aside the typical $49.95 price for new games in favor of a $19.95 tag. That reduction vastly undercut Madden 2005, the flagship title from EA, priced at $49.95. EA quickly countered with a price drop of its own, to $39.95. In December, EA put an end to competitive pressures by signing the NFL (and its players association) to an exclusive five-year deal, rumored to be worth $300 million, for all things NFL. The losers in the new deal: Take-Two Interactive software, which created ESPN's sports titles, and videogame fans, who should expect a price hike to $55 for Madden 2006.

Motorola Makes Inroads in Home-Media networking

Motorola acquired software supplier Ucentric Systems last week and will incorporate Ucentric's home-networking software into its Home Media Architecture for advanced and basic digital set-top platforms. Motorola will also market connected home-software systems to third-party service providers and consumer-electronics manufacturers. Ucentric's software provides access to stored digital entertainment—including HD video on a DVR, music on a computer hard drive or pictures on a laptop—from any connected device in the home.

Cox Taps N2 for FreeZone

Cox Cable has chosen N2 Broadband to provide the technology platform and systems integration as Cox expands its FreeZone for on-demand long-form commercials on a national scale. The platform is based on N2's Xport Digital Media Producer and MediaPath content-delivery system, with an integrated workflow management system developed in cooperation with Cauldron Solutions. FreeZone, which was first offered in San Diego in 2002, is a branded environment that showcases long-format ad messages to on-demand viewers across Cox's video-on-demand (VOD) markets.