ESPN’s profits boosted by $260m in state tax breaks

And in the stories I initially missed over the holiday break department, here’s a lovely piece from the New York Times about how ESPN has gotten $260 million in state tax breaks to remain in Connecticut over the past 12 years:

That includes $84.7 million in development tax credits because of a film and digital media program, as well as savings of about $15 million a year since the network successfully lobbied the state for a tax code change in 2000.

For Mr. Malloy and other public officials in Connecticut, the conventional wisdom is that any business with ESPN is good business. After all, ESPN is Connecticut’s most celebrated brand and a homegrown success story, employing more than 4,000 workers in the state.

“After I was elected, this was one of the first companies that I came to,” Mr. Malloy told reporters after the groundbreaking ceremony, standing next to a senior ESPN executive, according to a recording of the event. “I made it clear that ESPN’s needs were not going to be ignored by my administration.”

At $260 million (and counting) for 4,000 jobs, that’s a ratio of $65,000 per job retained, which is far from a record, but still pretty bad. And that’s assuming that ESPN was actually a risk to move — it just built a new $25 million studio in Bristol, after all. And the network also just laid off 100 employees last spring, something it’s allowed to do because the Connecticut tax breaks apparently don’t come with clawbacks. You know, people, it’s not as if no one has spelled out how to do this right or anything.

4 comments on “ESPN’s profits boosted by $260m in state tax breaks

  1. Well seeing as they just signed Tebow to work for them, the Worldwide Leader could easily threaten to move to Jacksonville at some point.

  2. They aren’t going anywhere, no different than MLB franchises shaking down locals with “move threats”.
    I did my time in Bristol and my first boss (who was there on day one) spelled out some of why the location is profitable – no union jurisdictions, eager newbies graduating from colleges every year, having the (small) state and local
    gov’s in their pocket.
    They own Bristol and are the 8k pound elephant in the small room that is Con.. When they get those tax breaks the shortfall will be made up by the taxes payed by the low-payed (compared to NY and Boston tv production employees) interns and other employees. Ironic that the cost of living in central Con. is about the same as the metro areas it is in between – but you can’t beat Lake Compounce or the clock & watch museum, right?
    Remember this when you pay more than $5 per month subscriber fee for the 4-letters – almost 5 times more than any other cable outlet charges for content.
    As Sal Marciano said, “…happiness is seeing Bristol in your rear view mirror…”

  3. I can already imagine the outrage on UConn blogs and message boards. ESPN is more to blame than any other entity for setting in motion the realignment mess of the last few years that’s left the Huskies on the outside of the major conferences and crippled their sports programs. For $260m, maybe they could have used some influence to help out the state’s flagship public institution.

  4. Hmmmn.

    ESPN spent $1.2m lobbying… and gets anywhere from $85 to $260m in benefits.

    Gee, it seems like the best bang for the buck as far as taxpayer funded job creation goes is for government to pay companies to have lobbyists lobby it for taxpayer subsidies…

    Wait…. did we just solve the economic calamity everywhere? Why pay people to dig holes (or build cars no-one wants) and then pay others to fill them (buy cars that no-one wants) when you can pay people just to lobby for additional hole digging without moving all that dirt???