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Volume 25 No. 177


New Orleans led all local markets for the game with a 59.8 rating, followed by Charlotte (26.4)
Photo: getty images

ESPN last night drew its second-highest "MNF" rating of the season for the Saints' 12-9 win over the Panthers. The game drew a 9.1 overnight, up 40% from a 6.5 in Week 15 last year, which featured Falcons-Buccaneers. Last night's game is also up from Panthers-Redskins two years ago, which drew an 8.0. Saints-Panthers was likely boosted by interested fantasy football team owners, with many league semifinals wrapping up last night. The game peaked with a 10.5 overnight during the game's final minutes from 11:00-11:15pm ET. New Orleans led all local markets by far with a combined 59.8 rating (13.4 on ESPN, 46.4 on WDSU-NBC), followed by Charlotte with a 26.4 (10.3 on ESPN, 16.1 on WJZY-Fox). Greensboro (16.9), Raleigh-Durham (13.3) and Norfolk (12.7) rounded out the top five (Josh Carpenter, THE DAILY).

HERE TO STAY? THE ATHLETIC's Lindsay Jones reported ESPN has made a commitment to its "MNF" booth of Joe Tessitore, Jason Witten and Booger McFarland "not just for the rest of 2018, but into the future." Like it or not, NFL fans "should expect to see and hear this trio next season." It is likely that what ESPN "pictured when they created" the three-man "MNF" booth last spring was a "spirited debate between big personalities." What they "may not have pictured was the trying year this broadcast team would go through," with Witten, McFarland and Tessitore all fielding an "unprecedented amount of external criticism." That includes "everything from the Booger Mobile to Tessitore’s in-play exuberance to a host of critiques about Witten." ESPN VP/Production Lee Fitting said that the "only change he wishes" the net had made in hindsight was to "increase Witten’s on-camera time from the moment he was hired last spring." Fitting: “We’re on 24 hours a day. We have NFL talk and NFL shows everywhere, it wouldn’t have been that difficult." McFarland said of possible changes for next season, "Might we tweak something as far as technology? I don’t know. That’s something we’ll take a look at when the season’s over. But they signed us with a vision of this not just being a one or two-year thing. Their vision is to be long term" (, 12/16).

Abdul-Jabbar and Johnson are both likely focal points for the five-episode series
Photo: nbae/getty images

The L.A. Media Fund and the Lakers are "teaming up with Haven Entertainment to produce a five-episode docu-series focusing on the '80s Showtime era" of the team, according to Mike Fleming Jr. of That was the period when Pat Riley "coached the run and gun style distinguished by Magic Johnson's passing and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's scoring," with Jamaal Wilkes, James Worthy, Byron Scott and Michael Cooper "backing them up." Celebs like actor Jack Nicholson "turned The Forum into the town's hottest ticket and the team won five NBA titles and waged an unbelievable rivalry" with the Celtics and Larry Bird. Lakers President Jeanie Buss said of the series, "The Lakers are one of the most storied franchises in the NBA -- but 'Showtime' holds a special place in the hearts of our fans and this city." Lakers Chief Legal Officer & General Counsel Dan Grigsby "negotiated the deal" for the series, which was brokered by Endeavor. The docu-series will be "directed by Kristopher Belman" (, 12/17).

Neverett will have a mix of games on both TV and radio in his new role with the Dodgers
Photo: dodgers

The Dodgers "added a new voice to their broadcast team" in former Red Sox radio announcer Tim Neverett, who "will call a partial slate of games" on KLAC-AM and SportsNet LA in '19, according to J.P. Hoornstra of the L.A. DAILY NEWS. Neverett will "handle television play-by-play duties" during Joe Davis’ national assignments for Fox Sports, and radio play-by-play duties for Charley Steiner, who "requested to cut back on his broadcast schedule." The Dodgers also announced a "three-year contract extension" through '21 for the 69-year-old Steiner, who joined the Dodgers’ broadcast team in '05. Meanwhile, the Dodgers "did not renew the contract of Kevin Kennedy, who had filled in as a color analyst on radio broadcasts the last five years." Analyst Rick Monday "shifted to play-by-play duties during Kennedy’s appearances." He will "remain an analyst alongside Steiner and Neverett" in '19. Kennedy will "return to MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 12/18). In Boston, Chad Finn notes the 52-year-old Neverett "spent the last three seasons calling Red Sox games alongside Joe Castiglione on WEEI’s broadcasts." He said last Tuesday that he was "letting his contract run out rather than return in part due to the contentious atmosphere at the station" (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/18).

Centerplate is handling concessions for four bowl games this year, including the Alabama-Oklahoma CFP semifinal in the Capital One Orange Bowl, meaning a likely boon to their business to wrap up the college football season. Centerplate (@Centerplate) Communications Dir Paul Pettas said the concessionaire does not settle for typical fare for bowl games. He said, “Historically, the business model dictates that you offer the same experience at the same time to everyone. But it’s counterintuitive to how people are today. Our goal the last two years has been to flip it on its head and offer menus and experiences that are specific to the event, specific to the venue and specific to the season, most importantly, because of the food.” Delivering unique food at the Orange Bowl is something Centerplate’s staff is crafting. Pettas said last year’s Allstate Sugar Bowl had dishes geared toward Alabama and Clemson, and the same should be expected in Miami. He added of promoting such items, “When it comes to our social channels, I’m always getting inspiration from our venues because it is such a great array of sources I can pull from.”

Must-follows: I read my Fast Company newsletters every single day. I’m constantly getting inspirational ideas from them.
Favorite apps: Probably Instagram, to be honest.
Average time per day on social media: Between 17-18 hours a day.

Clients influenced by social media:
We like to think at the core of our industry it is about experience. It’s about making the time people spend with us memorable, enjoyable and fun. An important part of that is the food and the shareability of the food that we are serving. When people eat with us, they want to share what they are eating with their friends, family, co-workers. The food item we are plating for them really is the embodiment of the team, local market. Everything we serve, we try to make it as local as possible. By keeping our finger on the pulse of the local market, we can really provide for our fans, their own personal food tour. You get a good feel for the local food scene.

Target audience:
When we sat down and designed our social programs, we said every channel is different. Look at our main channels: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. Each one is kind of different. On Instagram, we are really targeting the general public, anyone who enjoys great content of great food. Our photos there are fun, they are engaging, they’re colorful. It shows off the best of the best of the culinary talent we have. On Twitter, there is more direct engagement there with the general public, but also with venues and our clients. When you go to Facebook, the engagement is geared more toward our employees and our team. There is engagement among our general public and venues there, but it is geared more toward our internal. LinkedIn is more different venues and our internal folks. Each one is different, but at the core, the goal is to deliver timely and engaging and informative content.

Setting the scene:
One of the big differentiators for us compared to our competitors is we like to think we aren’t just your typical hot dog guys; we aren’t serving just hot dogs and fries. We have incredible talent among our chefs and our managers and really think our food and experiences are next level and best in class compared to anything our competitors can offer. We like to think our content -- our food and displays -- are second to none.

Social outreach:
Our goal is to be accessible for those who spend time with us. We want them to see there is a real personal touch behind what comes from this huge corporation. We want to break down any preconceived notions. We are consumers, fans and guests just like the people who join us. We are accessible, responsible and here.

If you know anyone who should be featured for their use of social media, send their name to us at

In Detroit, Justin Rogers writes with the Lions set to miss the playoffs, it is possible the team "might be destined" for HBO's “Hard Knocks” in '19, but "closer inspection suggests that remains highly unlikely." The Lions "meet the qualifications to be forced on to the program by the league," as they "won’t have a new coach, haven’t been to the playoffs the past two years and haven’t appeared on 'Hard Knocks' in the past 10." The question would be "why would HBO choose the Lions?" The team "isn’t compelling and there’s little question Matt Patricia would bristle at showing the public another side beyond the super serious football coach" (DETROIT NEWS, 12/18).

WINDFALL COMING? THE ATHLETIC's Andy Dolan asked, "Is the Cubs’ reluctance to add even more payroll a result of sudden onset panic into how much they’ll really get out of their long-awaited TV deal after this season?" Dolan: "Of course it is." Unless MLB "does the unthinkable and uncouples streaming rights and lets individual teams control them, it’s unlikely the Cubs will get the huge deal they’ve been dreaming of since the day the Ricketts bought the team." They will "get a windfall, but it won’t be nearly as obscene as they once hoped it would be" (, 12/17).

FAREWELL, FOR NOW: GOLFWEEK's Forecaddie noted Golf Channel analyst Charlie Rymer is departing "Morning Drive" after six years for a "scaled-back" role with the net. Sunday marked Rymer's last show. Rymer said that he will "next be seen" on the net for April’s Drive, Chip & Putt Championship (, 12/16).

GOLDEN TICKET: PGA Tour Live, the OTT service that streams extensive featured groups during tournament play, has been enhanced and is now available for purchase in the U.S. on NBC Sports Gold. The service will no longer be housed on, and a price of $49.99 is available through the Desert Classic (Jan. 17-20), while a monthly pass can be purchased for $9.99. After Jan. 20, a season pass will cost $64.99 (NBC Sports).