A report which has appeared in a respected American business publication suggests that Electronic Arts may be on the verge of signing a billion-dollar deal for the exclusive rights to use NFL player names and likenesses.
The Sports Business Journal reports that EA is in final negotiations for a deal with the NFL Players Association to exclusively license all players for four years, at a cost of $250 million per year.
The deal - if it goes through - would give EA's NFL products a massive advantage over rivals such as Sega's ESPN NFL Football, which would no longer be able to use official player names and likenesses.
However, NFL Player Association representatives have apparently informed a moderator at the ESPNvideogames.com website that only "normal" licensing deals are currently underway, according to a report on US website GameSpot.
The report in the Sports Business Journal carries some weight, though; not only is the publication a well-respected journal in its field, but it has also demonstrated some insight into EA's NFL-related plans in the recent past, revealing only two weeks ago who the company's "cover star" for this year's NFL title would be, several days ahead of the official EA announcement.
A deal of this magnitude would be immense for EA in simple financial terms, but it certainly isn't outside the realms of possibility for the giant publisher - and the advantage which it would give to EA Sports titles in the American market cannot be underestimated.