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Electronic Arts' CFO Grows Up Again

When he was chief financial officer at Amazon.com (AMZN), many analysts thought Warren Jenson's real job was to be the company's official grown-up. He helped the company successfully navigate the dot-com crash and its transition from money-losing start-up to profitable enterprise.

Now, in his third year as CFO of Electronic Arts (ERTS), Jenson faces a similar task. While EA's management may be more sober on the whole than Amazon's was during the dot-com boom, and its position no way as dire, Jenson's job is to help the company navigate the coming transition to the next-generation of video-game consoles.

The early going hasn't been so good. Earlier this year, the company stumbled badly, posting revenue and sales for its past fiscal year that fell far short of Wall Street's expectations.

But EA is already trying to turn things around. Last year, it signed an exclusive deal with the National Football League in an effort to fend off a challenge from rival Take-Two Interactive (TTWO - Get Report). And the company plans on making a big bet on the next-generation consoles, including Microsoft's (MSFT - Get Report) Xbox 360 that will start rolling out later this year.

Q: EA seemed to start feeling the effects of the coming console transition this past year. In contrast, Activision (ATVI - Get Report), Take-Two and THQ (THQI) all posted pretty good numbers. How would you explain the diverging results?

It's pretty hard for me to speak for them. In our business, we are very much title-driven. And last year was an incredibly competitive year; a great year for Take-Two with San Andreas, certainly; a fabulous year for a Halo, for a Half-Life, and intensely competitive. For EA, it creates a trend line, but it's part of a long-term journey.

Q: How much did the sports battle with Take-Two affect your overall picture last year?

We clearly had -- and have -- a very strong sports position that came under attack last summer. I think what we did was exactly what we needed to do, and that was we defended our turf. At the end of the day, we came out tougher and stronger. And, Madden, in particular, and our overall sports business, our segment shares, were actually up for the year. And that's taking the competitive threat head-on.

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