The decision by the producers of Baywatch to cancel the popular syndicated show after two seasons in Hawaii was purely a hard-headed business decision.
It was, in fact, precisely the same kind of hard-headedness that must be applied the next time a television show, sports contest, special production or other event comes to Hawaii asking for financial help. Will the investment pay off?
Baywatch made a strong pitch for local backing in exchange for the decision to move the show to the Islands. The payoff would be world-wide publicity for Hawaii, its beautiful people and beautiful scenery. The show is syndicated and seen around the world.
Hawaii responded, with something like $7 million in free airfare, hotel rooms, infrastructure and other forms of support.
Did we get adequate bang for our bucks? In some ways we may never know, since the program will be in endless syndicated rotation somewhere in the world. And there are intangibles, including the message that Hawaii is ready to play ball when a production company is serious about moving to the Islands.
Somehow, all this must be added up in a more rigorous, professional way. Whats needed is a professional, objective audit of the amounts spent and the value of the promotional exposure received. This will prove invaluable when analyzing the next television show or sports event that asks for a subsidy.
It is obvious that Hawaii benefits when it is the background for a show or movie seen elsewhere in the country and around the world. But how much benefit and how much should we pay for it?
The brief two-year experience with Baywatch may be the case study that can offer us some answers to those questions.