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Women’s soccer is coming to ‘Football Manager,’ but it will take a while

Football Manager developer Sports Interactive has a history of inclusive gameplay, and that now extends to women. The company has revealed that it’s adding women’s soccer (aka football) to its management sim. This will likely be a “multi-year” project, SI warned, but this also isn’t a simple character model swap. The studio wants to offer the same kind of depth it has for men’s sport while accounting for the differences between players and leagues.

There will be new models and databases, of course. However, SI noted that it also has to account for different league rules, gender differences in text translations (the most expensive part of the project) and tweaks to different player attribute systems. The company also has to decide whether or not it accounts for certain practical realities of women’s soccer, at least at first — does it factor in menstruation and pregnancy, for example?

The team recently hired coach and research expert Tina Keech to lead its women’s soccer efforts, and there are already motion capture sessions underway.

The expansion will likely prove costly. SI expects adding women will “cost millions,” and it’s looking for sponsorship deals that could help fund the project. However, the company believes there’s a moral imperative to add women to the game — it wants to “smash” the glass ceiling for women’s soccer and help it get the same attention given to men’s leagues. In other words, Football Manager will be part of a larger sports equality campaign that includes games like FIFA as well as better TV coverage of real-world matches.

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Tech News

NFL Thursday Night Football is coming to Amazon earlier than expected

In mid-March, the NFL announced a series of new media deals, including a big one with Amazon that will bring its Thursday Night Football games to the company’s Prime platform. Per the original announcement, the deal would kick off with the 2023 season and continue on through 2033, but something changed behind closed doors and now the partnership will start a year earlier than first announced.

Amazon dropped the surprising announcement on its Prime sports Twitter account, revealing that football fans will be able to watch Thursday Night Football games on its Prime platform starting next year rather than two years from now. The deal will still run through 2023, making it an overall 11-year partnership rather than 10.

The terms of the deal remain the same as previously announced, according to Amazon, which notes that it will get 15 Thursday Night Football games each season, as well as a pre-season game. This marks the first time the NFL has given a streaming service an exclusive national rights package.

Given this revised timeline, the company notes that the existing tri-cast Thursday Night Football package will expire following the upcoming 2021 NFL season. Prime members will be able to stream the games, though the NFL also noted that each game will be available on OTA television in teams’ home markets.

Speaking about the revised deal, Amazon’s VP of Global Sports Video Marie Donoghue said:

We look forward to bringing Thursday Night Football exclusively to Prime members in 2022, a year earlier than previously announced. This expedited deal is an immediate differentiator for us as a service, as it gives Prime members exclusive access to the most popular sport in the United States.

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Tech News

Spotify CEO can’t pay artists a penny per stream, wants to buy football club instead

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek may not have enough cash to pay musicians a penny per stream, but he can apparently afford a football team.

The Swedish billionaire wants to acquire English Premier League side Arsenal, and is reportedly working with three of the club’s most celebrated former players on a takeover bid.

Ek declared his interest on the same night thousands of Arsenal fans staged a protest against the club’s current regime. In typically tasteful and moderate style, they hung up an effigy of owner Stan Kroenke and a banner that read: “Kroenke-19: the American virus.”

Ek’s announcement sent supporters wild. The 38-year-old is worth a cool $4.7 billion, according to Forbes, and as a lifelong Arsenal fan would presumably be willing to splash a big chunk of cash on the club.

Musicians, however, have urged Ek to start paying artists fairly before buying a sports team.

[Read: 3 new technologies ecommerce brands can use to connect better with customers]

I’d also prefer Ek to plow more of his billions towards musicians, but as a long-suffering Arsenal fan, I’d cautiously welcome him to make an offer for the club. He surely can’t be worse than the current owners. Unlike them, he at least seems to actually like football.

And while even famous artists struggle to make a living from Spotify’s paltry payout rates, the compensation model could be more appropriate for Arsenal.

Instead of paying Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang £350,000 a week ($486,000), Ek could give him $0.00437 per goal, and use the savings to buy some new defenders.

He could also create a version of Spotify’s much-maligned “tip jar.” Fans could donate 50 pence to Dani Ceballos for every game he goes without diving — or £10 if he ever scores a goal.

The players certainly won’t like it, but the supporters would bloody love it. If Ek gives them free Spotify subscriptions for good measure, they’ll be singing his name from the stands.



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Tech News

Amazon and NFL pen major Thursday Night Football deal

Only days after a leak claimed as much, the National Football League has officially announced its new broadcast deals for seasons running through 2033 — and Amazon is among the companies that scored a long-term deal. Other media partners on the receiving end of NFL deals include FOX, NBC, CBS, and ESPN/ABC.

Among the new deals is the NFL’s expansion of its partnership with Amazon, which first got in on Thursday Night Football distribution back in 2017. This time around, Amazon Prime Video has scored the exclusive rights to Thursday Night Football, meaning you’ll be able to stream the games on devices that support Prime Video.

The deal, as with the others announced today, will start with the 2023 season and last for a decade through the 2033 season. The NFL calls its latest deal with Amazon its ‘first ever all-digital package.’ NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said about the new deals:

These new media deals will provide our fans even greater access to the games they love. We’re proud to grow our partnerships with the most innovative media companies in the market. Along with our recently completed labor agreement with the NFLPA, these distribution agreements bring an unprecedented era of stability to the League and will permit us to continue to grow and improve our game.

In addition to its Amazon deal, the NFL has also detailed new deals with ESPN, FOX, CBS, and NBC, noting that its own NFL Network will also broadcast ‘a select schedule of exclusive NFL games on a yearly basis.’ During the 2023 to 2033 time period, CBS, NBC, ABC, and FOX will also get their turns hosting the Super Bowl.

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Hublot Big Bang e Premier League brings Wear OS to football

Wear OS by Google, formerly Android Wear, also by Google, still leaves some things to be desired but no one can deny how it opened up the smartwatch market to more players. While it ironically seems to have pushed away smartphone makers, it invited traditional watchmakers to the party. That includes ones that make super-expensive luxury watches like Hublot who is bringing a Bing Bang e Premier League edition to fans of football or, as it is known in the US and some parts of the world, soccer.

The Hublot Big Bang e itself will be a year old in four months and that is exactly the same device that the watchmaker is bringing to the market. That means an old Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100 in a 42mm body. It also has the same 390×390 screen, 1GB of RAM, and 8GB of storage as the original.

What makes this Premier League edition is, of course, the Premier League branding. That comes as very purple straps, reflecting the official colors of the League, which can, fortunately, be swapped with a different one should you get tired of it. There’s also a pre-installed Premier League watchface and theme, also in purple, of course.

Since it’s a Wear OS smartwatch, Hublot also preinstalls apps specific to the football/soccer world, like the Hublot Loves Football Premier League app. Users will even receive “animated” notifications for kick-off times, goals, penalties, the works. Almost everything you need to keep track of matches will be on your wrist, Hublot promises.

This isn’t the first time Hublot has put out a football-themed luxury smartwatch, like the 2018 FIFA World Cup Big Bang Referee. And like those other smartwatches, the Hublot Big Bang e Premier League also carries a hefty price tag, $5,200 to be exact. Only 200 of these will be made, though, making it a true luxury collector’s item for hardcore football fans.

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Game

EA Sports College Football is coming back – Here’s what we know

It’s been a long time since EA Sports made games centered around college football, but the company will be returning to that world soon. Today, EA and the CLC announced that the two have partnered together to once again make EA Sports “the exclusive developer of simulation college football video game experiences.” If you’re hoping to see an EA College Football game soon, however, you should know that you might be waiting a while, as EA says that development is “just underway.”

On top of that, the company’s announcement also says that launch timing is “still to come as the project progresses in the years ahead.” Aside from questions of launch timing, EA today described just what this partnership allows in its College Football games – and what it doesn’t. This partnership with the CLC will give EA Sports the “rights to more than 100 institutions featuring logos, stadiums, uniforms, gameday traditions and more that fans have come to know and love.”

On the other side of that coin, we shouldn’t expect to see player names and likenesses in this game. “While this game will not include student-athlete names, images and likenesses, EA SPORTS is continuing to watch those developments closely.” In other words, if you have a favorite college football player, you probably shouldn’t expect to see them in this game.

EA says that once upon a time, its College Football franchise was “a consistent top-five sports title in North America,” that was “generating tens of millions unit sales from 2005-2014.” Not only that, but apparently fans have been requesting this return to college football en masse for years, so there will probably be a lot of gamers happy to hear that the franchise is coming back.

That’s all we’re getting out of EA and the CLC today. We’ll keep our eyes peeled for more information about EA’s return to college football, but those of you who are excited should temper your expectations, because it sounds like it might be quite some time before we hear more.

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