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EA CEO Says They Would Jump For the Opportunity, To Get Back in The College-Game Business

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NCAA Football

EA CEO Says They Would Jump For the Opportunity, To Get Back in The College-Game Business

During the WSJ Tech Live conference, EA CEO Andrew Wilson said, “we would jump for the opportunity to get back in the college-game business,” if the NCAA can determine how to compensate players for using their digital likeness in video games.

This news comes weeks after the California Governor signed a new law that would allow college athletes to collect money off of their likenesses:

California Governor Gavin Newsom is expected to sign the state’s Fair Pay to Play Act into law today. That bill, which passed the state senate with overwhelming support earlier this month, forbids the state’s public colleges and universities from revoking the eligibility or scholarships of athletes who sign endorsement deals, hire agents, or otherwise make money off of the use of their names and likenesses.

This is a big deal! Laws like this one are becoming a popular bipartisan topic across the country, and its not crazy to suggest a sea change is coming to how we view college athletes. This is a necessary step to seeing college sports video games again — as there’s no way any major developer will be taking on a project without the threat of legal issues.

However, the new law doesn’t take effect until 2023 in California — meaning there’s still quite a bit of time before athletes will be collecting paychecks and hiring agents (or worse that the law could be repealed).

Outside of the economic win for college athletes in ending the practice where they are unfairly limited in their ability to monetize their likeness — this is a big win for the potential future of college sports video games.

This is just one state though, and the NCAA itself will need to change its rules to accommodate such huge sea changes in the business model of college athletics. Optimistically, given the growing support for compensating college athletes, it seems like the potential legal hurdles could clear within the next couple of years — allowing for the return of NCAA Football, Basketball, etc. video games, to our TV screens.

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  1. I’m glad that steps are finally being taken in compensating players, but the NCAA won’t go down without a fight. Their death grip on the money these kids earn them is all that matters to them. They’ll probably try and ban California teams from bowl games, as has been rumoured. We’re gonna need more states to stand up to these tyrants to truly force change.
    You got a long way to go. I don't think this helps.
    Even if all 50 states created a similar law, you would have to essentially enter a contract with each student athlete to be in the game. I'm sure the kicker from SW Missouri State wouldn't cost you much, but it adds up.
    But unless you get "NCAA" to buy in, you will also have to enter a license agreement with each conference or school. Again... it would be pretty expensive.
    This is kinda the same fate APF 2k8 had... they had to have an individual contract with each school. John Elway and Barry Sanders was much more expensive than Pete Metzellars and Barry Word.
    The NCAA working groups findings report is due by end of month. There's a meeting on 26th and 27th where they'll make their findings public. The first step is getting those other states to start truly clamoring about following California's lead within the next 3 weeks. NCAA is going to fight this to the end. NCAA should have the power to properly govern this if they just let go of that old stance. if they truly want to prevent these states from having having different laws pertaining to compensation, they have to make an universal law for all schools.
    But I'm optimistic about return of NCAA future. I'm just not so sure of when. I don't think the 2023 date for California will correlate to the NCAA decision. I think if NCAA is truly defiant, then they will use that time to get that law appealed. But even if NCAA agrees to it, I don't see them putting into effect at least until January 2021 or after. So that brings on the question does NCAA willingly give up their likeness before the law goes in effect. I'm not so sure they will. NCAA will want to avoid any lawsuits. Even if they do, all EA could do is what they did in past minus roster share. If they do make a company wait until law goes into effect, then I think we are 2-4 years away from licensed game. I feel EA would only need 1 dev cycle since they can use Madden resources. But I don't see NCAA Basketball coming back. CBB isn't as marketable and don't see EA bringing it back since they are struggling with Live.
    kennylc321
    I'm sure the kicker from SW Missouri State wouldn't cost you much, but it adds up.

    This might not be a popular opinion here on OS, but I think EA could get by with paying about 100 players. For the rest of players, they can sign a waiver if they want their likeness in the game, and if not they'll just have a generic in the game.
    Cardot
    This might not be a popular opinion here on OS, but I think EA could get by with paying about 100 players. For the rest of players, they can sign a waiver if they want their likeness in the game, and if not they'll just have a generic in the game.

    I can even see most players willing to take a free copy of the game as payment.
    I don't really see them going through 120+ school rosters and trying to get rights for all rhose athletes. Just seem like it will cost a ton of money and be very time consuming.
    illwill10
    I can even see most players willing to take a free copy of the game as payment.

    A free game would be a nice gesture by EA, but I don't think they would even have to do that. I would guess that 95% of players would be happy to just be in the game.
    Cardot
    A free game would be a nice gesture by EA, but I don't think they would even have to do that. I would guess that 95% of players would be happy to just be in the game.

    I've seen players say that. I seen Saquan and former collegiate players said they missed out on being in NCAA. I'm certain players would do it for free.
    I said free game because cash value gets extremely expensive for every individual player.
    https://www.espn.com/college-sports/story/_/id/27743871/ohio-state-ad-gene-smith-fair-pay-play-act
    Pretty much sounds like they already made a decision just waiting on that October 29 date to submit. With them saying whatever they recommend what take place until at least late 2020, has me feeling like they came up with some type of compensation model. It's just obvious they are against players getting compensated, their hands are being forced. So I'm curious to see their recommendations
    My thing is that the major money will only be available to like 50-100 players. Most of the other players will probably will just get local deals or autographs.
    kennylc321
    You got a long way to go. I don't think this helps.
    Even if all 50 states created a similar law, you would have to essentially enter a contract with each student athlete to be in the game. I'm sure the kicker from SW Missouri State wouldn't cost you much, but it adds up.
    But unless you get "NCAA" to buy in, you will also have to enter a license agreement with each conference or school. Again... it would be pretty expensive.
    This is kinda the same fate APF 2k8 had... they had to have an individual contract with each school. John Elway and Barry Sanders was much more expensive than Pete Metzellars and Barry Word.

    Well said. I was just about to say pretty much the same thing. While others have noted that a majority of players would sign a waiver for free, just to be in the game, my guess is the top 50-100 guys (the guys with a real shot at being picked in the first few rounds of the draft) will want compensation. Same as the trend is to sit out Bowl games to avoid risks, players will want certain money now rather than waiting for money that may never come later. It would be a logistical nightmare to negotiate with the players individually. And, as kenny notes, that doesn't even get to the colleges and conferences. I am just not sure this gets us any closer to an NCAA game.
    If player likeness compensation comes to pass, and looks like it will, I imagine that there will be some sort of NCAA players union for the respective sports. That would likely get the vast majority of the players for stuff like games. Now the big name guys like a Zion or Trevor Lawrence would probably have to be negotiated with separately as their likenesses do carry significant value. Its fascinating to see this movement. I see other states are now looking into do something similar, which is exactly what California wanted to spur the NCAA along.
    Sent from my SM-G950U using Operation Sports mobile app
    I bet you would be getting cover athletes that are current NCAA players - like Lawrence and Zion - that will cost EA more money but like others said, I feel many players would sign a waiver willingly to get themselves in the game.
    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
    kennylc321
    You got a long way to go. I don't think this helps.
    Even if all 50 states created a similar law, you would have to essentially enter a contract with each student athlete to be in the game. I'm sure the kicker from SW Missouri State wouldn't cost you much, but it adds up.
    But unless you get "NCAA" to buy in, you will also have to enter a license agreement with each conference or school. Again... it would be pretty expensive.
    This is kinda the same fate APF 2k8 had... they had to have an individual contract with each school. John Elway and Barry Sanders was much more expensive than Pete Metzellars and Barry Word.

    If this happened I would expect the players would organize and there would be an entity to sign an agreement with. The question is whether the schools will do it. It would likely destroy non-revenue sports at those schools except for the matching womens scholarships and could cause them to operate at a loss depending on how much they pay the athletes. The next question for liberal California is whether they require the schools to pay women the same as men. They must provide equal number of scholarships. That's 85 just to match football. Another dozen to match basketball. If you don't pay women equal to men what does the governor do when the women's soccer team at UCLA goes on strike demanding equal pay? California may have opened a can of worms.
    It will be interesting to see how this plays out. I wouldn't be surprised if the school say no thanks.
    tessl
    If this happened I would expect the players would organize and there would be an entity to sign an agreement with. The question is whether the schools will do it. It would likely destroy non-revenue sports at those schools except for the matching womens scholarships and could cause them to operate at a loss depending on how much they pay the athletes. The next question for liberal California is whether they require the schools to pay women the same as men. They must provide equal number of scholarships. That's 85 just to match football. Another dozen to match basketball. If you don't pay women equal to men what does the governor do when the women's soccer team at UCLA goes on strike demanding equal pay? California may have opened a can of worms.
    It will be interesting to see how this plays out. I wouldn't be surprised if the school say no thanks.
    I dont think it would affect the non revenue generating sports at all. Those sports would still be getting subsidized by football and basketball like now. The schools would continue to make crazy money and use that support all the sports at the school. It's just that a Zion or Katie Ledecky could make what their market value is. Coke could pay Katie Ledecky to do a commercial. Coke doesn't care about the 13th man on the basketball team. As far as the school goes, everyone gets the same scholarships and everything else from the school, so I dont see any Title 9 issues. It's just the student.
    Sent from my SM-G950U using Operation Sports mobile app
    Junior Moe
    I dont think it would affect the non revenue generating sports at all. Those sports would still be getting subsidized by football and basketball like now. The schools would continue to make crazy money and use that support all the sports at the school. It's just that a Zion or Katie Ledecky could make what their market value is. Coke could pay Katie Ledecky to do a commercial. Coke doesn't care about the 13th man on the basketball team. As far as the school goes, everyone gets the same scholarships and everything else from the school, so I dont see any Title 9 issues. It's just the student.
    Sent from my SM-G950U using Operation Sports mobile app

    I live in Columbia MO. The Missouri athletic department has lost money the last 2 years. The only way they could afford to pay athletes would be to eliminate every mens non-revenue sport and since it is a very liberal institution the issue of equal pay would be big.
    My guess is the schools will decline to participate
    This isnt necessarily about the schools paying players. And in fact it's more likely that it will be private businesses. So even a school that isnt making money can see an uptick in recruiting.
    In the case of Missouri mentioned above if a local car dealer business wanted to offer Drew Lock an endorsement deal to advertise for their dealership, or if Nike wanted to pay him to endorse his products that is more what you'd see.
    Here in Columbus I am more inclined to believe that a guy like J.T. Barrett could have made money advertising for a company here like Nationwise or by doing autograph singings.
    It feels like there is some confusion over what this law is about. Of course it could lead to actual schools paying players directly, but I believe that to be less likely (not impossible). But for any college player that is marketable could get an endorsement deal from Nike or another company.
    Sent from my SM-N960U using Operation Sports mobile app
    tessl
    I live in Columbia MO. The Missouri athletic department has lost money the last 2 years. The only way they could afford to pay athletes would be to eliminate every mens non-revenue sport and since it is a very liberal institution the issue of equal pay would be big.
    My guess is the schools will decline to participate

    This isn’t schools paying players. This is players being allowed to profit off their name and likeness. Meaning they can run a YouTube channel or Twitch stream and keep the revenue they get. Meaning they can get paid by a private business to endorse things. Get a cleat deal from Nike/UA/etc. They can sign things and sell them. They can sell their rights to a company like EA if they wanted to be in a video game. Stuff like that.
    tessl
    I live in Columbia MO. The Missouri athletic department has lost money the last 2 years. The only way they could afford to pay athletes would be to eliminate every mens non-revenue sport and since it is a very liberal institution the issue of equal pay would be big.
    My guess is the schools will decline to participate

    The California law will have absolutely no negative impact on non-revenue sports and the schools’ ability to fund them.
    Seems to me that you’re too worried about what’s liberal or not liberal and haven’t taken the time to read the actual law. It’s a publicly available document and is pretty short. Every college fan should read it (SB 206).
    The California law does not allow schools to pay athletes. In fact, it specifically prohibits them from doing so. Equal pay is not at all a factor, nor is Title IX.
    Every penny a college athlete earns in California will come from outside endorsements. Athletic department budgets won’t be involved in payment at all. How much an athlete does or doesn’t make depends entirely on what he or she can individually negotiate.
    Three main things will happen if California’s law becomes the standard:
    1. Athletes can hire agents.
    2. Athletes can sign endorsement contracts and get paid.
    3. Authors will not have their eligibility affected by doing either.
    That’s it.
    Schools should all be in favor of this. It cleans up the dirty money in college sports, athletes can earn the money the free market decides they’re worth, and none of it costs schools or the NCAA a dime.
    There are talks in Ohio now about getting in on this. The NCAA has waited too long thinking they could just ignore it and those days are over. I am all for this forcing their hand into creating a new system because it's time for change.
    ODogg
    There are talks in Ohio now about getting in on this. The NCAA has waited too long thinking they could just ignore it and those days are over. I am all for this forcing their hand into creating a new system because it's time for change.
    They have been talking about this here locally and I believe this is actually Federal legislation that is being worked on by former Ohio St wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez.
    Sent from my SM-N960U using Operation Sports mobile app
    ODogg
    The NCAA has waited too long thinking they could just ignore it and those days are over. I am all for this forcing their hand into creating a new system because it's time for change.

    I enjoy anything that causes the NCAA anguish. While not as corrupt as Fifa or the IOC, they probably get the bronze medal.
    With an expected release of the Working Group findings next week, we will get a better idea. If NCAA does come around and allow compensation, I think the biggest hurdle is EA and NCAA coming together to come up with acceptable mode of compensation. That will become NCAA agrees to sell the license to EA. But will most likely not allow Roster Share.
    If NCAA does allow compensation, I don't the law will come in effect until earliest 2021 season. Unless NCAA wants to drag it on, I think most likely 2021 or 2022 season. I don't think EA would need more than one dev cycle to get back into NCAA Football. They can share the Madden engines and I'm sure that they still have assets from previous NCAA games.
    Typical so typical bitter rich people that have money like the NCAA they make BILLIONS and only offer a small portion to there college athletes. They did not get there way back in 2010 would of had to pay more money out of their pockets instead just kill basket ball and football on the video game side sad very sad.
    Holding people hostage that’s why we do need lawmakers unfortunately they are comprised as well but some do work and hold companies accountable hopefully this will get worked out by the time the new systems get released and we can get Colloge basket ball and football games.
    I've got a couple of opinions here.
    Is this a necessary step to bring back college sports titles? I don't think it's necessary at all. Here's why. EA and 2k have already shown that they can get licensed college teams into Madden and NBA 2k respectively. No one got sued over player likenesses because the rosters were completely random and generic. So a full game with completely random and generic players is entirely possible. EA suits just don't believe a game like that would sell without real players in the game. That's why their NCAA series always featured players on teams with height, weight, number and attributes "similar to" real ones on the team. You can't tell me generic QB #15 on Florida wasn't Tim Tebow. So having this law isn't a necessary step, but it's a step that EA seems to think it needs to take.
    Second, not every player will get paid. EA would only need the guys who are the best players on each team to be the licensed guys. Jalen Hurts, Trevor Lawerence, Tua Tagovailoa, those are the guys EA would get. Names casual fans would know or have heard of. The 3rd DT on Tulsa would probably be a generic player. No need to pay that guy anything. It's sad but I bet that's how it would go down. Why pay the guys who aren't going to sell your game to the non-hardcore audience?
    Third, the NCAA will not be paying these players when their likenesses are used. EA and whoever contracts these players to do advertisements and what not will be paying the players. The NCAA loses no money over this. The only thing they lose is a bit of their power over the players which is just as important to them. The NCAA is largely archaic and does not like to change with the times. Their old fashioned ways and reluctance to change makes them difficult to deal with. Even if every state falls in line with California and adopts some form of this bill, the NCAA may not cooperate with companies like EA or 2K and may withhold licensing that may be critical to the development of a college title.
    Just my humble opinions. Thought I had to share.
    illwill10
    With an expected release of the Working Group findings next week, we will get a better idea. If NCAA does come around and allow compensation, I think the biggest hurdle is EA and NCAA coming together to come up with acceptable mode of compensation. That will become NCAA agrees to sell the license to EA. But will most likely not allow Roster Share.
    If NCAA does allow compensation, I don't the law will come in effect until earliest 2021 season. Unless NCAA wants to drag it on, I think most likely 2021 or 2022 season. I don't think EA would need more than one dev cycle to get back into NCAA Football. They can share the Madden engines and I'm sure that they still have assets from previous NCAA games.

    My understand is the working group wants to allow for third party compensation without the NCAA or schools paying and the group is trying to find a way to implement it. I've gone from skeptic to a belief there will be a breakthrough. The question is when.
    It probably depends on how detailed the working group's plans are. Do they just come up with a general framework or is it a final, detailed document which gives companies a set of rules providing an immediate opening?
    I don't see EA spending resources on a new game until they have a clear framework from the NCAA which will pass inspection from EA's lawyers but if that happens then I could see a game in time for 2020 even if it's NCAA 14 template with current Madden ps4 graphics.
    I think what EA could do is send a waiver to every player to allow their name and likeness to be added to the college football game. Any player that doesn’t want to do it for free would either be left out for a generic player or could pursue a payment from EA.
    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
    RandallB21
    I've got a couple of opinions here.
    Is this a necessary step to bring back college sports titles? I don't think it's necessary at all. Here's why. EA and 2k have already shown that they can get licensed college teams into Madden and NBA 2k respectively. No one got sued over player likenesses because the rosters were completely random and generic. So a full game with completely random and generic players is entirely possible. EA suits just don't believe a game like that would sell without real players in the game. That's why their NCAA series always featured players on teams with height, weight, number and attributes "similar to" real ones on the team. You can't tell me generic QB #15 on Florida wasn't Tim Tebow. So having this law isn't a necessary step, but it's a step that EA seems to think it needs to take.
    Second, not every player will get paid. EA would only need the guys who are the best players on each team to be the licensed guys. Jalen Hurts, Trevor Lawerence, Tua Tagovailoa, those are the guys EA would get. Names casual fans would know or have heard of. The 3rd DT on Tulsa would probably be a generic player. No need to pay that guy anything. It's sad but I bet that's how it would go down. Why pay the guys who aren't going to sell your game to the non-hardcore audience?
    Third, the NCAA will not be paying these players when their likenesses are used. EA and whoever contracts these players to do advertisements and what not will be paying the players. The NCAA loses no money over this. The only thing they lose is a bit of their power over the players which is just as important to them. The NCAA is largely archaic and does not like to change with the times. Their old fashioned ways and reluctance to change makes them difficult to deal with. Even if every state falls in line with California and adopts some form of this bill, the NCAA may not cooperate with companies like EA or 2K and may withhold licensing that may be critical to the development of a college title.
    Just my humble opinions. Thought I had to share.

    tessl
    My understand is the working group wants to allow for third party compensation without the NCAA or schools paying and the group is trying to find a way to implement it. I've gone from skeptic to a belief there will be a breakthrough. The question is when.
    It probably depends on how detailed the working group's plans are. Do they just come up with a general framework or is it a final, detailed document which gives companies a set of rules providing an immediate opening?
    I don't see EA spending resources on a new game until they have a clear framework from the NCAA which will pass inspection from EA's lawyers but if that happens then I could see a game in time for 2020 even if it's NCAA 14 template with current Madden ps4 graphics.

    I believe that the NCAA is at the point where they have to know that can't just continue to sweep this issue under the rug. They have to get in front of this. NCAA and most people shouldn't want all these states to have individual set of laws regarding to NIL and compensation. Whether we like the recommendations the working groups gives, I do believe they try to find something they are willing to allow. We just don't know how soon it'll come to effect. But I do believe if NCAA comes up with their own model of NIL compensation and a state tries to do their own thing, I can see NCAA banning the schools who doesn't follow their rules.
    Yes, EA and 2k have shown they feel like need NIL for them to sell collegiate games. But I feel the biggest thing they want is just the NCAA to agree to sell their license. The main thing EA, NCAA, and schools wants to avoid is lawsuits. Yes, they made added college teams with fully generic rosters and avoided lawsuits so far. But a large portion of teams still were not willing to sell their license because of fear of litigation. So EA and NCAA can come up with a way where they can feel confident that they could avoid lawsuits, then that's where it starts. So lets say working group recommends that players can be compensated by their standards, I can see EA quickly approaching them about reacquiring the exclusive license. But, I don't see NCAA giving the okay until the ruling goes in effect. Luckiest(and Quickest) we can hope for is NCAA saying that EA can purchase the license and create game but with heavy restrictions. For example, fully generic random generic rosters and no roster share.
    My question is do we think that NIL will really push the needle(as far as sales) for collegiate games?
    Generally in the past, NCAA Football would sell 2-3 million copies at best. Maybe the interest has risen past 6 years, but not sure if it brings in millions more sales. I think it depends on how they incorporate NIL. I don't see them face scanning or using actually pictures of player faces in games. I just see them just using real name, number, and H&W. Unless it is a cover athlete who is current player, I don't see them using resources on over thousand players. But if they can incorporate players into adverstising, that could really help with sales. Having real players in advertising egging on rivalries and such, that could add more buzz.
    I don't see NCAA Basketball coming back though. EA has to get Live back to a stable state before even thinking about CBB. 2k is shallow in the sports games market. They basically put all their eggs in one basket(NBA). So it would be nice if they can expand. It should be easy for them to develop a CBB game because they have the assets and resources. But I honestly don't think the CBB market is that strong. The whole one and done era makes it hard for casual fans to attach to a player. Unless it is someone who has Zion level marketability, CBB doesn't have same buzz as CFB. But I don't see 2k jumping into College Football. I don't see them building new engine for a college game that might not sell over 3 million copies. I feel 2k is holding out for NFL
    My thinking of that it can’t be too much extra work to port what is already being done with Madden to create an NCAA game. The engine is the engine and could be used for both games. From there you would just need a team of developers to create the different aspects of college football: polls, bowls, rankings, recruiting, etc. While the game may not sell as much as Madden, it would definitely be profitable.
    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
    R1zzo23
    My thinking of that it can’t be too much extra work to port what is already being done with Madden to create an NCAA game. The engine is the engine and could be used for both games. From there you would just need a team of developers to create the different aspects of college football: polls, bowls, rankings, recruiting, etc. While the game may not sell as much as Madden, it would definitely be profitable.
    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro

    Do we even want that though? I don't play Madden, but I'm constantly hearing how horrible it is and watching video evidence of it on YT. If this is the case, it'll be hilarious when the new game finally comes out and everyone's like "ehhh... I'm going back to (insert year)."
    With recent news that Florida Governor wanting to following suit, NCAA definitely have to get in front of this this.
    Yeah while NCAA and Madden shared assets and engines, I don't necessarily want Madden with a NCAA shell over it. It can share graphics and gameplay engine, I just want the college gameplay experience.
    Along with Madden, NCAA would need strong AI for game to be feel realistic when playing CPU.
    Don’t know if the same developers are still there that were there for the NCAA game. Because if it will be in the hands of the Madden folks...won’t buy it.
    tuckermaine
    Don’t know if the same developers are still there that were there for the NCAA game. Because if it will be in the hands of the Madden folks...won’t buy it.

    Ben Haumiller is still there, i think he was ths executive producer for NCAA. Besides him, don't know who carried over
    illwill10
    Ben Haumiller is still there, i think he was ths executive producer for NCAA. Besides him, don't know who carried over

    Good to know...my point is NCAA was a very good game..and what I’ve seen from Madden as of late especially this year turns my stomach.
    I’ll be keeping an eye on this ..thanks for the encouragement
    My thing as a dynasty/franchise guy is the off the field things that go along with the actual playing of the games. Madden’s franchise mode is too RPGish for me as well as bare bones that I don’t find myself all that immersed in it at all.
    With NCAA I feel like as long as recruiting is solid and they have all the bowls, playoffs, coaching carousel and everything else we have come to know and love about the college game then I can make the gameplay work. I mean look at what we are doing with NCAA 14. Is the gameplay perfect? No, far from it in fact. But we have so many dedicated slider creators that we are able to get the most of it. As long as the mode feels immersive off the field, I can get into the game on the field.
    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
    TBH..I think we Kan expect this game back before we know it. I feel like everyone is going to follow suit like Colorado and make billions..Meaning others states are going to see the real profit and all the while all players get action at getting paid for there Talent... NCAA is going to really jump on board. I feel there are on board they just want some heavy rules to pass dwn with it. And they will jump in.

Executive Editor.

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