New survey touts benefits of ABC’s ‘Nashville,’ but can we trust it?

By Chris Butler | Tennessee Watchdog

NASHVILLE — ABC’s “Nashville” attracts tourists and tax dollars to Music City, says one survey.

But can we trust the study, especially when the agency conducting it gave taxpayer money to the show?

Yes, we can, said Butch Spyridon, president and CEO of the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp.

As previously reported, state officials gave the show $12.5 million in exchange for filming on location for season two, while city officials gave the show an additional $500,000. The Tennessean reports the Visitors Corp and the Event Marketing Fund, backed by hotel tax revenue, contributed $250,000.

SURVEY SAYS: ABC’s “Nashville” attracts tourists and tax dollars to Music City, says one survey.
But can we trust the study, especially when the agency that did it gave taxpayer money to the show?

“In discussions with the TV show, they were going to conduct their own research,” Spyridon said in an email.

“In order to put more objectivity in the research, we offered to conduct it ourselves. We are just as interested in the impact as the producers of the show are, and it is important for us to know whether we are getting our money’s worth.”

CVB officials surveyed 426 people at the Bridgestone Arena, the Ryman Auditorium and the Courtyard by Marriott Downtown in November and December, according to the Tennessean. Fifty-five percent of respondents said they’ve seen “Nashville.” The “Nashville” viewers, the survey said, spent more time and money in the city than people who don’t watch the show.

Nearly one in five respondents said they came to the city because of the show, and more than half of those who came were likely to return, the Tennessean reported.

Spyridon told Tennessee Watchdog survey respondents indicated they spent 23 percent more money in the city than non-viewers.

Tennessee Watchdog asked why CVB officials didn’t hire an independent third-party to conduct the survey, but Spyridon somehow inferred we were asking whether they doctored the results.

“The implication that we would skew the research is ludicrous,” Spyridon said.

“When possible, we use research to back up our marketing dollars.”

ABC’s “Nashville.”

Survey respondents were eligible to win a free Music City gift bag, which prompted a laugh from Ben Cunningham, president of the Nashville-based Tennessee Tax Revolt.

“The gift bag is just more evidence that this is nowhere near an objective arm’s-length judgment of the effectiveness of our taxpayer dollars,” Cunningham said.

“It’s simply a government bureaucracy trying to justify their own existence, and it is in fact clear evidence that they are wasting our money. If they really wanted an objective judgment about how effectively they are spending money they would go to a third party that would really try to determine whether this money was effectively being spent.”

While hardly scientific, Tennessee Watchdog this past summer did its own survey of tourists at Nashville’s famed Broadway Street, as well as Centennial Park. All but one of the tourists hadn’t seen the show, and the one person who did said it had no bearing on her decision to visit.

Contact Christopher Butler at chris@tennesseewatchdog.org. or follow him and submit story ideas on his official Facebook page.

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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