Million-dollar incentive for NBC’s ‘Bluff City Law’ criticized

Updated: Jun. 23, 2020 at 7:33 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The Shelby County Assessor is calling into question a $1 million Payment In Lieu of Taxes or PILOT program that helped incentivize the filming of NBC’s now-canceled courtroom drama, “Bluff City Law,” in the city of Memphis last year.

In order to encourage Comcast and NBC Universal to film the NBC courtroom drama, “Bluff City Law,” in the city of Memphis, a package of incentives was created by state and local governments.

One of those incentives was a $1.4 million PILOT program, abating taxes that Comcast would have to pay to Shelby County.

Shelby County Assessor Melvin Burgess held a press conference Tuesday morning criticizing the PILOT.

“Yet we’re still giving out incentives that we say is supposed to help Shelby County but yet our schools are still suffering, we got blighted properties, we still have crime,” said Burgess. “To me I just don’t get it.”

Burgess is calling on Shelby County elected leaders to challenge this PILOT and attempt to recoup the lost tax revenue since “Bluff City Law” was canceled after only 1 season.

“We need to have some conversation on what’s beneficial and what’s not for this county,” said Burgess. “And this is a very, very difficult time that we’re facing now in this county.”

“So they completed one year of benefit, and now with the series canceled, so is the PILOT,” said Reid Dulberger, president of EDGE.

The Economic Development Growth Engine of Memphis and Shelby County or EDGE approves PILOT programs.

Dulberger says Shelby County benefited tremendously from this PILOT.

While the work was completed in the year 2019, the incentives are applied to the year 2020.

According to the PILOT details posted publicly online, NBC Universal spent a payroll of $22 million filming the show in the Mid-South and generated an estimated 10,300 hotel room nights in Memphis.

Dulberger says Memphis also got tremendous unseen benefits from the prime time show.


“Our city, our county, our community was promoted to a national and international audience that we couldn’t have afforded,” said Dulberger.

Read more Bluff City Law coverage here

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