New coalition aims to boost Stamford’s media industry


STAMFORD — In the state’s fastest growing city, film, television and digital production has become one of the most promising industries in recent years.

The opening last year of The Village, home of reality TV producers ITV America and Wheelhouse Entertainment, combined with the upcoming opening of WWE’s new headquarters and prolific production at NBC Sports headquarters and the Stamford Media Center highlight local momentum.

Today, more than a dozen media companies operating in the city have joined together to launch the Media Advocacy Group. Backed by the non-profit Stamford Partnership, the new coalition aims to cement Stamford’s status as a growing media center and drive continued economic growth.

In particular, the new group aims to increase networking and collaboration between industry professionals and to advocate for initiatives such as tax credits and employment-based loans that have helped recruit a number of businesses in the state.

“Often companies in the same industry are competitors, but we don’t see it that way. We want to bring together companies that work in the same industry because we see it as a way to build bridges and build a workforce,” said Danielle Bibbo, executive vice president of business development and strategy. ‘ITV America, which played a leading role in launching the group and also joined the board of the Stamford Partnership, said in an interview.

“It’s everything from sharing best practices, sharing in-state resources and vendors, to recommending employees we can share.”

Members of the group, who will meet quarterly, want to capitalize on recent industry gains in the region. At least 10 media companies have moved to Stamford in the past 12 months, according to the Stamford Partnership.

“We put this group together, and they showed great energy and commitment from the start,” said Stamford Partnership CEO Jon Winkel. “It just shows that these companies care about creating a network and a community here. These are not companies operating in silos.

ITV America and Wheelhouse, both of which have offices in The Village, are two of the examples for newcomers. ITV America’s portfolio of shows includes ‘Hell’s Kitchen’, ‘Queer Eye’ and ‘Pawn Stars’, while Wheelhouse-produced shows include ‘Hype House’, ‘Discovering David Dobrick’ and ‘Inn the Works’.

The Village was developed by Wheelhouse Properties, part of Wheelhouse Entertainment’s parent company, Wheelhouse Group.

“We really want to create a Stamford that has everything it needs to attract talent – that’s super important,” said Rob Lia, Chairman and General Counsel of Wheelhouse Group. “We have to keep building.”

Supporters of the Media Advocacy Group include NBCUniversal Syndication Studios, which operates the Stamford Media Center. The downtown complex is home to the production of a number of shows, including “Judge Jerry”, “The Maury Show”, “The Steve Wilkos Show”, and “The Doctors”.

“It’s really a partnership between all of these media companies,” said Vinnie Fusco, vice president and general manager of NBCUniversal Syndication Studios and Stamford Media Center and Productions. “We all travel in the same circles, we all know each other and we all support each other.”

NBCUniversal Syndication Studios’ parent company, NBCUniversal, also owns NBC Sports, which is headquartered at 1 Blachley Road on the east side of town. The Stamford site is the headquarters of NBC Sports’ Olympic production and shows such as “Sunday night football.”

In total, NBCUniversal employed about 1,075 people in the city in the third quarter of last year, ranking it the eighth largest employer in the city, according to the Stamford Economic Development Office.

WWE is headquartered a few blocks from NBC Sports at 1241 E. Main St. Later this year, it plans to open its new downtown headquarters at 677 Washington Blvd. In the third quarter of last year, WWE ranked 12th among employers in the city with approximately 700 employees.

Messages left with NBC Sports and WWE asking if they were members of the Media Advocacy Group were not returned.

State support

Other key objectives of the Media Advocacy Group include promoting state financial support for their industry, which they believe is an engine of economic growth. The film and television industry is directly responsible for more than $1.8 billion in salaries statewide each year, according to Motion Picture Association data cited by Stamford Partnership officials.

In May 2018, the state Department of Economic and Community Development announced that it would provide a $6 million loan to ITV America and a $3 million loan to Wheelhouse to support their expansion into Stamford.

ITV would have $4.5 million of its loan forgiven if it created and then maintained an average of 300 jobs for two years by the end of 2025, according to DECD officials. Wheelhouse would have $2.25 million of its loan forgiven if it creates and then sustains an average of 150 jobs for two years by the end of 2027.

“One of the things we were looking at when we moved to the state was who was going to take us in and help us as a business,” said Bibbo, who played a leading role in the move. ‘ITV at Stamford.

“We were in New York, and New York doesn’t really accept unscripted production like Connecticut did. We felt like Connecticut was the right home for us because of their incentive packages they offer to the media industry.

Lia also praised the state’s support.

“That was one of the main reasons we decided to come to Connecticut,” Lia said. “Connecticut did a great job getting us here.”

When she was a state representative and co-chair of the state legislature’s commerce committee, Stamford Mayor Caroline Simmons pushed for tighter control of state business incentives. But she said those grants have been effectively rolled out to ITV, Wheelhouse and NBC Sports.

“The Department of Economic and Community Development is a great partner in ensuring businesses have the tools they need to help them thrive in Connecticut and Stamford,” Simmons said. “NBC Sports, ITV America and the Wheelhouse all contribute to Stamford in many ways, and we’re lucky to have them in business here.”

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