By: Jennifer Bissell
Jerry Springer agrees his show is an absurdity. But that doesn’t mean it’s not good for Stamford.
“It’s nothing but a circus,” Springer said in between show tapings at the Stamford Media Center. “But you’ve got to see it. I think that’s the magic of the show.”
And from the state’s perspective, which issues tax credits for the talk show, he’s right.
Vinnie Fusco, general manager of the Stamford Media Center, and Tracie Wilson, senior vice president of programming and development, NBCUniversal, in Stamford.The state wants to keep Springer and NBCUniversal’s three other talk shows running at the Stamford Media Center. In 2012 NBC spent $57 million in Connecticut through the Stamford Media Center, making it eligible for $17 million in tax credits. Both parties consider it a good deal.
The shows mean additional spending in the state that wouldn’t happen otherwise. But they also create a more vibrant community and industry, according to the state Office of Film, Television & Digital Media. Since the state established the film and digital media tax credit in 2006, the program has leveraged more than $1 billion in economic spending. It’s also spurred NBC to expand its footprint in Connecticut, moving websites and NBC Sports into the state.
“The days that we’re here, there’s a vibrancy,” Springer said. “This is becoming an entertainment center, which is a significant business.”
Since the Jerry Springer, Maury Povich and Steve Wilkos shows relocated to Stamford in 2009 from Chicago and New York, more than 350,000 audience members have traveled to the set, most of whom are college students from surrounding states. A fourth show starring Trisha Goddard is new. The economic impact in downtown Stamford, which has made several efforts to attract more young adults, is estimated at $3 million to date.
“In just the five years I’ve been around, this has become a younger community,” Springer added. “And that’s a plus for everyone.”
Mentioning NBC’s expansion into Connecticut, Vinnie Fusco, general manager of the Stamford Media Center, also said there was a notable difference in the quality of applicants the center has gotten since it first moved. At first it was difficult to attract talent, he said, which is becoming less true as the city increases its profile as an emerging media center.
“A lot of the Connecticut graduates want to go to New York,” Fusco said. “But there are opportunities here now between us, People’s Court and NBC Sports. They can have a career here in Connecticut.”
The set of shows may have been the guinea pig for NBCUniversal to try out Connecticut, but the move has paid off. Since moving to Stamford, the center has seen double digit rating increases for each of its shows. Ratings for Maury, Jerry Springer and Steve Wilkos have improved 10 percent, 17 percent and 40 percent respectively.
Tracie Wilson, senior vice president of programming and development at NBCUniversal, said the ratings increased simply by uprooting the shows into Connecticut.
“We injected a new energy not only into the production of the show but the hosts,” Wilson said. “We’re one big happy family here, and I mean that, but the hosts are competing with each other now.”