Tennessee bulking up TV incentive program
The state of Tennessee is hunting for the next “Nashville” by doubling down on its efforts to lure more television shows here.
To make that happen, the Tennessee Entertainment Commission is launching a new economic incentive program for scripted television shows. Beginning next year, the state will reimburse television shows for 30 percent of their production costs, compared to 25 percent previously.
The state will also begin offering incentives for non-resident labor for scripted shows.
Tennessee Entertainment Commission Executive Director Bob Raines said “Nashville,” the country music drama that ended its six-year run this summer, was a massive success. The show employed about 250 people full-time during its production and spent approximately $225 million in Tennessee during its run.
The state gave about $35 million in incentives to the show over its first five years. That figure will rise to about $40 million after the sixth season’s incentives are doled out, Raines estimated.
“Our goal around this is to bolster permanent infrastructure around film and television production in Tennessee,” Raines said. “We want to grow high quality jobs in our workforce and attract new businesses to the state.”
Why Tennessee wants TV shows instead of movies
Raines said television shows are advantageous because they typically have longer production schedules compared to films. If a show is successful, it lasts several seasons, compared to a one-off film production.
The state is also raising the minimum spend per episode to $500,000, up from $200,000. Raines said the state is currently engaged in talks to bring prominent television productions here.
“We saw the ‘Nashville’ model as a vehicle to employ hundreds of people for nine or 10 months at a time for several years,” Raines said.
The focus on television production comes during a boom time in investment on TV shows with companies like Netflix and Amazon committing billions of dollars to content creation.
Tennessee still won’t measure up to the film and television incentives offered by regional competitors like Louisiana and Georgia. But Peter Kurland, business agent for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 492, said the new incentive package makes the state more competitive nationally.
Kurland said adding incentives for non-resident labor is especially encouraging, because that requirement had previously been a detriment for recruiting some projects.
Shows can bring other businesses, tourism
In addition to “Nashville,” the state has offered incentives for the productions of “Still the King’ and “Sun Records.”
After the show arrived here, an array of affiliated businesses followed, Kurland said. Tennessee now has the talent base to accommodate major productions.
“I think it’s going to be a much more competitive incentive program than we’ve had before,” Kurland said. “It’s not as much money as they have in other states, but most producers look at percentages and above-the-line rebates (for creative talent like actors, writers and producers). We’ve been at a disadvantage there and this allows us to compete on a mathematical basis essentially with all the other incentives in the country.” The state budgets about $2 million annually for its incentive program, but there’s flexibility, as was the case with “Nashville,” to ask for more money for a specific project.
In the case of “Nashville,” there was the added bonus of the show boosting tourism. The state estimates the show accounted for $486 million in visitor spending, Raines said.
As part of the new incentive package, productions will be required to display a “Filmed in Tennessee” logo prominently during its credits and on the show’s website.
Source: Knoxville News Sentinel, by Nate Rau
The East Tennessee Economic Development Agency markets and recruits business for the 15 counties in the greater Knoxville-Oak Ridge region of East Tennessee. Visit www.eteda.org
Published September 13, 2018