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Welcome back to the Spotlight! With the Thanksgiving holiday coming up next week, the Spotlight will be on a one-week hiatus. But lest you worry, it’s all gravy. I will do my best to load up your plate with all the fixings, squashed into a format easier to digest than your aunt’s dry Thanksgiving turkey. As you’ll find if you take a pecan-side, the cavity below is stuffed with all that’s bean cooking in the sports and entertainment kitchen. Although I am on a roll (I really know how to butter myself up), I will not yam-mer on with my corny puns and wordplay any longer. But on a serious note, despite all the really terrible things going on in the world these days, I challenge you all to set that aside in favor of something or someone for which to be thankful.    

    • Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg are adding another World War II project (an AppleTV+ Series called “Masters of the Air”) to go along with “Band of Brothers,” “The Pacific” and “Saving Private Ryan” to their production credits that include “Saving Private Ryan.” A sequel (to the war--not to the series) may well be in development.

    • Entertainment and sports agency, Creative Artists Agency launches a better-for-you snack company called Myna Snacks with the help of a popular digital media streamer and consumer packaged goods (CPG) expert. The products have zero percent dairy, soy, gluten and grains, zero percent artificial flavors, colors and preservatives, and fifteen percent commission. 

    • Major League Baseball’s owners unanimously approved the plans to have the Oakland Athletics viva in Las Vegas. Next item up for voting is whether to give the Vegas team 162 home games.

Welcome back to the Spotlight! It seems the spotlights on film and television sets across the country are primed to be turned back on, as actors’ union SAG-AFTRA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) finally reached a tentative agreement to extend and modify the expired collective bargaining agreement. That the strike lasted for over six months – the longest of its kind in history is notable and raises questions about why the parties waited so long for this breakthrough.  Perhaps the AMPTP thought they could win the war of attrition, but ultimately underestimated the actors’ skill at being waiters (many of whom will remain as such notwithstanding the strike ending). Perhaps SAG-AFTRA was satisfied that the wage and pension benefit increases and accompanying restrictions around the use of artificial intelligence in productions under the final proposal were indeed the “best and final” offer from the AMPTP. Or perhaps both sides felt that there were more compelling stories to tell and portray than that of Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce (blasphemy, I know). Whatever the reason, it sounds as if we will be assured at least three years of a détente between actors and studios. Until then, let the champagne (and popcorn) pop and revel in that and other news in this installment of the spotlight.       

    • Death, taxes and Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” invading the airwaves during the holiday season – those things are certain.  Another possible entrant might soon be copyright litigation around the lattermost.  Clearly, plaintiffs are misinterpreting the lyrics.

    • As the dust settles from FTX founder and former CEO Sam Bankman-Fried being convicted on fraud and conspiracy charges, additional pressure is put on the various athletes and entertainers (Tom Brady, Shaquille O’Neal, Larry David) facing lawsuits for their roles in having endorsed the platform. Short of settlement of the lawsuits for pennies on the dollar, the best outcome might be an appeal that renders Sam Bankman, freed.

    • Hedge fund billionaire and New York Mets owner Steve Cohen is leading the charge on an $8 billion bid to bring a casino to Flushing Meadows, Queens right across from the Mets’ CitiField ballpark. If the move encourages wagers on the Mets to win, it might be the ultimate hedge.

While many of you come down from your Halloween sugar high, Taylor Swift remains in another stratosphere. Not because of sweets (although I hear Donna Kelce’s pre-game chocolate chip cookies are not to be missed), but rather because of domination of the music industry en route to recently having her net worth eclipse $1 billion.  In that regard, Swift is something of a unicorn (incidentally, her fanbase’s second most beloved animal behind Swift’s cat, Olivia Benson), because while other recording artists have spun off CPG (consumer packaged goods) brands – whether in fashion, apparel, beauty or liquor – the lion’s (not Olivia Benson’s) share of Swift’s fortune has been built almost exclusively on her music. Swift’s decision to re-record her back catalog of albums and monetize them on her own terms, through record sales, touring and her film chronicling her touring has been nothing short of genius. This gives me hope that perhaps someday, I’ll be able to recycle some of my best hits from prior Spotlights, such as this one from February 17, 2022

Actor Stanley Tucci inks a multiyear endorsement deal with Italian sparkling mineral water company, San Pellegrino, in which bottles will be branded “Stan Pellegrino.” An infinitely better proposition than a diaper rash ointment deal pitched to him for “Tucci Cream.”

I mean…that’s a billion dollar joke right there. For now, I’ll continue to build my own catalog through this week’s installment of the Spotlight: 

    • Kim Kardashian’s Skims brand flexes its sports marketing chops in becoming the official underwear partner of the WNBA, NBA and USA Basketball.  Here’s hoping they don’t take that too far and create a “nothing but net” product.
    • The University of Houston Cougars Football program received a cease and desist letter from the NFL for the Cougars’ wearing confusingly similar uniforms to those of the NFL’s legacy franchise the Houston Oilers (the rights to which are owned by Oilers’ successor franchise, the Tennessee Titans). In its letter, NFL asserted that the colorway and trade dress of Cougars’ “H-Town Pride” tribute uniforms were confusingly similar to those of the Oilers’ “Luv Ya Blue” uniforms. Were the Cougars to wear the uniforms again, they might need to call them the “We have a problem” uniforms.  
    • Flag Football is enjoying something of a Pickleball moment, seeing an influx of tens of millions of dollars as the sport rises in popularity (and will soon be an event at the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles), though it is unlikely to be a hip replacement for those who have hip replacements.

We’re just a few days away from Halloween, but I don’t feel the same excitement about the holiday as I once did. Maybe it is because I am older and eat less candy (I have the before and after pictures to prove it).  Maybe it is because the world is a scarier place right now than any horror movie could be.  Maybe it is because I am dreading all of the Barbie-Ken and Travis Kelce-Taylor Swift costumes.  Or, even more troubling, it is because I am looking forward to all of the Barbie-Ken and Travis Kelce-Taylor Swift costumes.  I’ll ponder that some more as I snack on some candy corn (controversial choice, I know--if only that was the most divisive issue facing us in our time…).  In any event, practice safe trick-or-treating: look both ways before crossing the street and carry both a flashlight and the knowledge from this spotlight.

    • Collectibles company Rally is selling fractional ownership of New York Yankees legend Mickey Mantle’s childhood home.  One can only assume the space above the fireplace will garner top dollar.
    • Unable to secure the $30 million per year that he was seeking for NBA jersey sponsorship rights for the Las Vegas Sphere, Sphere Entertainment Executive Chairman James Dolan found another suitor: Madison Square Garden Sports Executive Chairman James Dolan. As a result, the New York Knicks’ jerseys and warm-up shirts will bear Sphere branding.  Hopefully, I’ll be as excited to watch the Knicks as I am the animations on the outside of the Sphere – but I’m not holding my breath.
    • Taking cues from Universal Music Group, music streaming platform Spotify unveils a new royalty structure designed to address fraud that siphons royalties away from legitimate human artists. My dog’s recording career will have to be put on paws.    

Welcome back to the Spotlight! As Winston Churchill once said, “a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” Of course, Churchill predated the proliferation of social media that has enabled a lie to go even further in a fraction of the time.  Earlier this week, we witnessed how damaging the effects can be, as hasty journalists took a genocidal terror organization at its word and reported that an alleged Israeli airstrike on a Gazan hospital caused an explosion that allegedly killed 500 people.  Spoiler alert: the Israelis were not responsible for the blast, but rather the aforementioned terror organization was. Unfortunately, in the click-driven economy we live in, a premium is placed on speed rather than on truth.  By the time the truth came out, mass protests, riots and antisemitic violence (Including the destruction of synagogues) had already taken place.  Worse, because people are going to believe what they want to believe to fit their own narrative or agenda – even in the face of evidence to the contrary – the proverbial bell cannot be un-rung. No retractions, no mea culpas, no apologies.

A microcosm of this (clearly with not the same gravity, but humor me here) was when it was widely reported that now former Major League Baseball pitcher Trevor Bauer had committed heinous acts of sexual assault against an alleged victim. Bauer was dragged through the mud in the media and released by the Los Angeles Dodgers as a result. Just two weeks ago, we learned that after a two year court battle, it was evident that Bauer had been set-up and was the victim of blackmail.  Unfortunately for Bauer, the exoneration story does not get quite the level of interest as the one that implicated him in wrongdoing – and his baseball future in the US (he currently plays in Japan) remains uncertain at best.  The lesson from these parables? Perhaps we could all refrain from rushing to judgment or jumping to conclusions before casting a story in the spotlight. 

Some highlights from the week:

    • Cincinnati Bengals Wide Receiver Ja’Marr Chase forges a convenient endorsement deal with convenience store chain 7-Eleven because they’re both “always open.”  A much better fit for a wide receiver than a deal with Butterfinger.

    • Milwaukee Bucks Forward Giannis Antetokounmpo sues luxury mattress company Maree for allegedly failing to deliver on quality and quantity while using Antetokounmpo’s name, image and likeness without his consent. Those allegations are enough to lose sleep over. 

    • Taylor Swift’s film chronicling her Eras Tour opened last weekend to millions of screaming and shrieking fans, grossing about $92.8 million in North America and $123.5 million internationally in the opening weekend—a new record for concert films. Fortunately, that should be just enough to cover the cost of repairing the resulting shattered glass mirrors and windows.

Welcome back to the Spotlight. I would have loved nothing more than to write about sports and entertainment with levity and dad jokes as per usual. But, in light of the unspeakable, antisemitic terrorist acts committed in Israel in which no one, not even babies, was spared this past week—let alone the callous, hateful “justifications” for them—I am in no mood. I wanted to skip this week altogether, but could not remain silent—and neither should you. So, no bulletpoints (G-d knows there have been enough of those). If you’re looking for ways to help, I encourage you to donate to legitimate organizations that will provide on-the-ground humanitarian aid to those affected. Thank you for reading and stay safe. Am Yisrael Chai.

First things first, I owe you an apology for having startled you all the other day. You see, I was piloting a new distribution method for taking the Spotlight to the masses, and (oops!) I ended up setting off alerts on everyone’s mobile phones across the country. I take full responsibility and I really should have known better, particularly after seeing how ticked off people were to have U2’s album automatically pushed to their phones years ago. Although, things seem to have worked out for Bono and Co., adding to their accolades the opening of their residency at the $2.3 billion MSG Sphere in Las Vegas…  There’s also the possibility of dating Taylor Swift to reach a new audience, but I don’t think my wife (let alone Taylor Swift) would appreciate that. So, I think I would prefer good ol’ fashioned word of mouth for increasing my reach – that’s where you come in.

And here I come in with this week’s spotlighted stories:

    • Wallets are out for content streaming companies Apple and Netflix in the sports and film industries. Apple is rumored to be looking into acquiring Formula One racing rights. Netflix is acquiring “His Three Daughters” – a sentence a lot more troubling to hear than it is to read.  
    • The sports sponsorship market is hot and growing by an expected $22.64 billion between 2022 and 2027.  Jimmy Donaldson’s (also known as Mr. Beast) food brand Feastables, strikes a jersey patch sponsorship deal with the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets in an effort to get consumers buzzing.

    • Meanwhile, English Premier League Football Club Chelsea entered into a 40 million pound ($49 million) shirt sponsorship deal of its own with sports technology company Infinite Athlete. Chelsea players will need infinite athleticism to carry all that weight up and down the field.

    • The WNBA is expanding for the first time in its history, adding two teams: one in the San Francisco Bay Area and the other likely to be in Portland. Exciting news for sure, but not the first time that trailblazers have played in Portland. 

This past week a Sports & Entertainment Spotlight unto itself shone bright at Arrowhead Stadium as Taylor Swift cheered on her rumored love connection Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.  In the wake of that game (Kelce scored a touchdown and his team won, by the way) the media has been abuzz about the budding romance, and Kelce has seen his social media following, podcast listeners and jersey sales go through the roof. Is that the Taylor Swift effect? Probably.  But, in fairness to Kelce (a future hall of famer and two-time Super Bowl champion tight end), for that same game, he did shed his goatee in favor of a firefighter-chic mustache—so maybe there is some correlation there...?  We already knew from Swift’s global tour that tickets were hard and expensive to get – but that was when she was performing.  Now with the price of Chiefs tickets ballooning (including for this week’s tilt against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium, at which Swift is rumored to be in attendance), you still have to break the bank when she is a spectator. All of this is coming together at the perfect time. The Writers’ Guild of America and Hollywood studios agreed on terms to end the months-long strike. Surely, some writers will be inspired to retell the story on the big screen, while others will be able to write jokes for late night television. Worst comes to worst, Swift will have a memorable breakup song to perform in the future under her stadium spotlight (on the stage—not in a suite).  

    • The Dallas Cowboys’ home stadium pilots an artificial intelligence-powered version of owner Jerry Jones to answer various questions. AI Jerry has been strategically placed near restrooms for convenience of those who inevitably soil themselves in fear.

    • Goddess of Pop, Cher is alleged to have hired men to kidnap her son amidst a divorce fight between her son and daughter-in-law. A shocking but not surprising revelation for a singer of the song, “I Got You Babe.”

    • Iowa Pork Producers Association shows their humor chops cutting a squeal deal with Iowa State Cyclones football players Myles Purchase, Tyler Moore, Tommy Hamann and Caleb Bacon  (Purchase Moore Hamann Bacon), and in so doing, temporarily assuaged my beef with humanity. 

    • League One Volleyball (LOVB) launches with $35 million in Series B funding to be the first season-long professional women’s volleyball league, setting themselves up for a bump and spike in interest in the sport.  

For those of you that were already feeling overwhelmed by the early onset of pumpkin spice at the end of summer, with autumn now being upon us, it is now socially acceptable for those flavors and aromas to pervade daily life.  Autumn also means that football season is in full swing. And while certain fanbases take football season as license to be lunatics (looking at you, Buffalo Bills fans), it is never socially acceptable to threaten violence upon athletes.  Last weekend, the University of Colorado football team, that has been enjoying a name, image and likeness (NIL) fueled renaissance under new coach Deion Sanders faced off against its in-state rival, Colorado State University. In the midst of a hard-fought game with emotions amplified by rivalry and media fervor centering around a war of words between the larger-than-life Sanders and CSU coach Jay Norvell, CSU defensive back Henry Blackburn delivered a late hit on Colorado’s star player and future NFL draft pick, Travis Hunter, knocking Hunter out of the game.  Although Hunter’s team ended up winning the game, we later learned that Colorado fans had sent death threats (via social media, text and phone) to Blackburn in the aftermath of the late hit. Sadly, the lack of human decency is not new, but with NIL driving media prominence for college athletes who are connected with fans like never before, more needs to be done to discourage this type of behavior. After all, it is just a game. With that off my chest, let’s see what else we have in the spotlight. 

    • Pop singer-songwriter Katy Perry sells her music catalog (both her interests in master recordings and musical compositions) to private equity-backed Litmus Music for a teenage-dream exceeding sum of $250 million.
    • Hellmann’s Mayonnaise becomes the official mayonnaise of six top football universities, opening up the door for cardiology sponsorships at six top football universities.
    • Hollywood talent management company Brillstein Entertainment Partners is acquired by sports, entertainment and media representation agency Wasserman. Details of the tie-up were not disclosed, but I’m told someone stomped on a glass at closing.

Week one of the NFL season is in the books, leaving many teams, players and fans (whether it be New York Giants fans such as myself bemoaning a Sunday night beat down at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys, or Los Angeles Chargers fans frightened by the experience of sitting in the stands next to humanoid robots) trying to tear pages out. The week was also riddled with injuries—not all that surprising in the sport of football. However, New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ tearing his Achilles tendon was entirely unexpected particularly after an offseason of hype (chronicled on HBO’s “Hard Knocks”) and Super Bowl aspirations. Brands, sponsors and media companies who staked significant sums on the Jets bandwagon certainly got their money’s worth with the Jets and Buffalo Bills’ matchup on Monday Night Football earning the highest ratings for the program in history, but whether that value will hold over the course of the NFL season seems like a riskier proposition.  Going forward, it’s fair to wonder whether in negotiations, companies will be more attuned to the risk that a star player’s injury could end up squandering their investments. After all, Inter Miami Football (Soccer) Club without Messi is messy. And the Jets without Rodgers may well be stuck at the gate.

    • The two major pickleball leagues merge in a deal valued at $50 million, signaling yet again that pickleball is ready for brinetime.
    • Speaking of pickles, DJ Steve Aoki is the latest recording artist to wade into the fast food industry, joining forces with Burger King to create a “Whopper” track. When Aoki asked for creative control, Burger King said “have it your way.”
    • Tom Brady joins Delta Airlines as a strategic adviser for its workforce. Amongst Brady’s likely tips: have multiple retirement parties and whatever you do, don’t eat bread.

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