NBC’s Blacklist gets whopping $63M from NY for first seasons

| Rochester Democrat & Chronicle

ALBANY – Hopefully New Yorkers like NBC’s crime thriller Blacklist.

Taxpayer have dished out $63.3 million in film-tax breaks for the first three seasons, new state records show.

The SONY studios’ show got $43.7 million for seasons two and three in the second quarter of this year, according to Empire State Development, which oversees New York’s film-tax credit program.

It was paid $19.6 million for the first season from the state in 2016, records show.

Empire State Development said the payout was worth it. New York provides a rebate of 30 percent to 40 percent on production costs for films and shows shot in the state.

Blacklist’s production injected $189 million into the state’s economy and hired more than 10,000 people, supporting hundreds of local small businesses,” the agency said.

The big picture

The show is not alone is getting back big bucks from New York’s $420 million a year film-tax credit program, the largest in the nation.

A state law in 2013 required New York to make public how much in tax breaks shows and movies received.

So now after a few years of self reporting, there is a larger picture of how much New York is spending.

In fact, Blacklist isn’t even the most a show has gotten in tax breaks from New York.

The CBS drama Elementary was paid nearly $81 million in New York tax dollars for seasons two through five of the series, including $20.6 million for season five, the latest public filing showed.

CBS’ crime show Blue Bloods nearly got as much from New York for seasons four through seven, receiving $79 million back in production costs from the state, the records showed.

Another CBS show, Madam Secretarygot $60.4 million for its first three seasons. The show is filmed partly in Westchester County.

There was no immediate comment from CBS about the tax breaks for the shows. SONY referred comment about Blacklist’s breaks to the state.

Critics said the film-tax program is based on a cost-benefit ratio that assumes no productions would film in New York without the subsidy.

“This remains the single largest and most outrageous corporate giveaway on the books in New York today, bar none,” said E.J. McMahon, founder of the Empire Center for New York Policy, a conservative think tank in Albany.

Live from New York

The program, state officials said, is to attract new productions to New York, and the incentives have led to a boom in the state’s industry.

“New York’s booming film and television industry is thanks in large part to the state’s tax credit program, which has generated $31 billion in spending and over 1.6 million hires since its inception in 2004,” Empire State Development said Wednesday.

“And for every dollar in incentives Empire State Development provides to film and TV productions, New York receives $1.15 in return.”

The largest single tax break was the $24.5 million that season two of Fox’s show Gotham received last year.

Even long-standing New York shows reap the benefits from the incentives.

Saturday Night Live, for example, got $42.7 million from New York taxpayers in recent years.

Overall, New York offers $8 billion a year in subsidies to companies who locate or stay in the state. The film-tax credits program is the largest of them all.

In 2017, the USA Today Network in New York found studios got about $42,300 for every direct job created in 2015 and 2016.

Several states have shuttered their programs amid questions about their value.

Others, like Georgia and California, have expanded their production incentives to compete with New York, an investigation by the USA Today Network’s Albany Bureau last year found.

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