NBCUniversal commits big time to New Mexico following juiced up tax credit incentives

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 11: Designer Rosario Dawson prepares for the Studio 189 presentation in Gallery II of Spring Studios during New York Fashion Week: The Shows at Spring Studios on February 11, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)

Credit: Roy Rochlin

Credit: Roy Rochlin

Originally posted Friday, June 14, 2019 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

NBCUniversal, which runs TV networks such as NBC, USA, Bravo, Oxygen and E!, has committed 10 years and at least $500 million to do productions in New Mexico, a rival to Georgia in the tax credit game.

Why? New Mexico caps its tax credits like most states but recently made an exception for studios willing to commit for 10 years or more.

So under this deal, NBCUniversal is not under a cap, bringing more certainty for productions that might be around for years like TV series.

Among the TV series that have committed to New Mexico is a USA series called "Briarpatch" starring Rosario Dawson.

Georgia’s tax credits are especially appealing to TV series because they are unlimited. The maturation of the business has also attracted an increasing array of studio space and crew. There is now more than 1.1 million square feet of studio space available in Georgia, most of it in metro Atlanta.

Also, over the first decade, with only a few minor exceptions, Georgia legislators have fully supported the credits. There has been no concrete movement to cap them or cut them back in any way.

And while a film is usually here for four months to a year, TV series could be here for far longer. AMC's "The Walking Dead," for instance, has been shooting in Georgia now for nine years and is now on its 10th season. AMC was so certain the entertainment business had stabilized here, the network in 2017 purchased a studio here themselves rather than lease it out.

It hasn't hurt Georgia that competing states such as Louisiana,  Florida and North Carolina in recent years have cut back or eliminated tax credits in recent years, in part because studies have shown they don't pay off. Fox moved "Sleepy Hollow" from North Carolina to Atlanta after that state cut back on its tax credits.

Georgia has never released an independent study regarding the impact of the tax credits and whether the state generates enough film and TV business to offset the loss in tax revenue. But the credits have made the state the third largest behind California and New York in film and TV production overall.

Unfortunately, the recent publicity about boycotts regarding the recently passed abortion bill has changed the equation for antsy production companies yearning for consistency and certitude. In this case, it isn't about the tax credit system itself. Georgia's incentives remain some of the best in the world and producers like Tyler Perry will unapologetically continue to take advantage of them.

But some TV series may shy away from Georgia for now given the now uncertain landscape. Not a single new broadcast TV show, for instance, has yet announced Georgia as its home for the 2019-20 season. It would be the first time in several years that would be the case.

Currently, 37 active TV and film productions are shooting in Georgia, according to the Georgia film office, up from 32 two weeks ago. Twelve of those 37 are scripted TV series. Thirteen are unscripted. The rest are either TV or theatrical films.

Here’s the list as of June 14, 2019:

Here is how the New Mexico governor’s office spun its news:

"Over the next ten years, NBCUniversal will produce television and film projects at the Albuquerque facility, with the aim of reaching $500 million in direct production spending. In addition, NBCUniversal and Garcia Realty and Development will jointly locate lighting, grip, and transportation operations at the facility. Alongside anticipated production spending, NBCUniversal will have more than 330 full-time jobs year-round at its New Mexico hub, generating an economic impact of $1.1 billion over 10 years. The total number of jobs, direct and indirect, should exceed 800, according to an economic analysis by the state."

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