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Netflix expresses commitment to Los Angeles as a production hub. What does this mean for Georgia?

This was posted Thursday, April 13, 2017 by Rodney Ho on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Netflix content officer Ted Sarandos told The Wrap earlier this week that his company is going to cut back on chasing tax credits in other states and countries and focus on "building infrastructure" in Los Angeles.

“I personally believe instead of investing in tax incentives that we should invest in infrastructure,” Sarandos said in an interview at Netflix’s sleek new Hollywood offices, home to roughly a thousand employees, as the company continues its explosive growth.  Moving productions to benefit from tax incentives, common practice in the industry, “is very tough on families and eventually it grinds on the talent,” Sarandos said.

The company is shooting two scripted and one unscripted shows in Georgia. "Stranger Things" was the most buzzed hit of last summer and a second season is forthcoming July 15. "Ozark" starring Jason Bateman is set to debut later this year. And it's currently shooting a revamp of "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" in Atlanta.

No word yet from Netflix whether his comments mean anything regarding the future of these productions and their locations. Insiders say those existing productions are probably safe though it's hard to say what this means for new future shows.

Netflix is spending a whopping $6 billion this year on about 1,000 hours of original content. Not all of it can be shot in Los Angeles. And some shows are better served being in other cities for creative reasons. His argument is that for actors and directors, the stress of working away from home could hurt their performances.

Creatives on occasion have complained in public about the stresses of being in Atlanta. And it is easier for the writers - who typically stay in Los Angeles - to visit the set.

Ric Reitz, an Atlanta actor who helped design Georgia's wildly successful tax credit in 2008, said Sarandos' comments were not surprising. But California's tax credit program is limited and only so many productions can take advantage of it any given year. "Do not be misled that the cost of doing business vis-a-vis tax incentives does not play into their California strategy as California also offers credits to those who employ the most bodies," Reitz wrote in a text. "The California program is finite and they will still have to push some production outside of the state as necessary, or they will push others out of the state once they dominate the California tax credit base."

Acting has always been a "gypsy" business, he noted. "A working actor is a happy actor," he said, "and so it goes for all other trade disciplines."

At the same time, he has no idea whether his proclamations will impact "Stranger Things," "Ozark" or future Netflix productions coming to Atlanta.

John Raulet, a partner in Mailing Avenue Stageworks in Grant Park, said he's confident Netflix will still do work here because the tax credits are so enticing. "Bean counters have just as much to say as content execs," he said. "Perhaps more. Don't forget the shareholders, too."

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About the Author

Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.