By: Olivia Just
On Monday nights, after taping three episodes of the “The Jerry Springer Show,” its eponymous host likes to take his security guards out for dinner and cigars, often to a restaurant like the Capital Grille, just a few blocks down Tresser Boulevard from the Stamford Media Center, where Springer’s show is produced by NBCUniversal.
The dinner and cigars, along with the many boxes of pizza ordered to feed the show’s guests and the hotel rooms and car services booked for their comfort, are all small but noteworthy parts of the economic impact NBCUniversal has had on Stamford since its move to the city in 2009.
As it gears up for its fifth production season, the company has taken stock of its progress in the past fours, after three of its shows, “The Jerry Springer Show,” “Steve Wilkos Show” and “Maury” moved from Chicago and New York to Stamford.
Last year, the company added a fourth show, “Trisha,” starring U.K. television personality Trisha Goddard, to its roster of Stamford-produced shows.
NBCUniversal’s Stamford Media Center employs 280 people, 42 percent of whom live in Connecticut. The company leases about 83,867 square feet of space at $143,717 per month, which includes the production studio at the Rich Forum Theater and office space at 15 Bank St., and buildings at 2 and 3 Landmark Square. The company has paid the city $544,336 in property taxes, $156,425 in parking fees and $383,416 for Stamford Police Department security details.
As the daily appearance of long lines outside the Stamford Media Center attests, the audience that NBCUniversal’s shows attract is significant. The center attracted audience numbers of more than 240,000 to Stamford in the first three years of production, and 70 percent of the audience traffic comes from out-of-state. The company even sends buses as far as Vermont and Pennsylvania to draw in audience members.
The show’s guests, about 185 per week, are housed in local hotels and served by local restaurants during their stay in Stamford. Since August 2009, there have been 16,800 guests, which has resulted in a direct spend impact of $2.14 million for downtown Stamford to date.
“I think these shows have been rejuvenated by coming here,” said Vinnie Fusco, general manager and executive in charge of production at NBCUniversal.
At first, the transition to Stamford from larger cities like Chicago and New York produced some skepticism, even among the production company’s recognizable hosts.
“Initially, I argued against the move,” Springer said, noting that he took a “why mess with success?” attitude toward the show’s former base in Chicago.
Springer said his “first clue” that Stamford might be a good fit for the production was when he attended Alive@Five just days before the show started taping in August 2009, and was surprised by the size and energy of the crowd.
“This is a great place to be,” he said. “It gives the show such vibrancy. It’s turned out to be a perfect fit for us. In talking to people and walking around here at night after the show — this place is booming.”
NBCUniversal has acknowledged that Connecticut’s 30 percent tax credit for media production was a major part of the decision to choose Stamford as a new location.
In June, the state decided to suspend tax credits for film productions, while retaining the benefits for television and digital animation companies.
Tracie Wilson, senior vice president of programming and development at NBCUniversal, said the company is not concerned about any similar loss in tax credits for TV production because companies like NBC have a more permanent impact on local economies than film productions.
“We constantly monitor what’s going on in Hartford, and we have great lobbyists,” Wilson said. “We’re excited that the TV portion of that hasn’t changed.”
Wilson likes to say that NBCUniversal has served as a “guinea pig” in building up Stamford’s media industry, later helping to draw NBC Sports to the city and kicking Stamford’s reputation as a viable base for production companies into gear.
“Now, it’s kind of the go-to destination,” Wilson said. “From the local level, government officers and business leaders, to the state level, everyone has been incredibly supportive.”
Jack Condlin, president of the Stamford Chamber of Commerce, said that the relocation of NBCUniversal created media production as a new facet of Stamford’s business community.
“I’d give them very high marks,” Condlin said. “They’ve done well and have brought another aspect to our city.”
NBCUniversal recently renewed its lease at its production facility and now has leasing options at all three locations through 2020, according to Fusco.
Future plans are, at the moment, to maintain the four shows, though Wilson confessed she would love to see the company add a fifth to its list. An extra show, however, would mean the need for extra space: At present, the Stamford Media Center is at capacity, she said.
Any expansion would come as welcome progress to the Stamford community, as Sandy Goldstein, president of the Downtown Special Services District, said.
“We want them to keep being as positive about Stamford as they are,” Goldstein said.