The ‘Yellowstone’ Effect: Controversy and Commerce

While native Montanans have long known the benefits of living in Big Sky Country, it seems like the rest of the country has just noticed—thanks in part to the popular television series Yellowstone. Whether you’re a fan or not, there is no doubt that the show has exponentially increased the interest in all things Montana—even if there isn’t quite as much drama on the ranch as Rip and Beth might lead you to believe. According to a recent study conducted by the Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER) at the University of Montana, the show has brought more than just awareness to the Treasure State, it has brought significant economic growth.

Photos of Yellowstone cast at Dutton Ranch
Copyright: Kevin Lynch for Paramount Network

The show has been under production in the Bitterroot Valley since 2020. The April 2022 BBER report estimates that while filming Season 4 (Oct 2020 – Feb 2021), more than 500 jobs were created by Yellowstone and Paramount Studios added $85.3M to the economy through production costs and the spending of employees and organizations tied to the show. Even more impressive is the reported economic impact of Yellowstone-related tourism to Montana in the last several years, according to a survey of visitors conducted by the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research (ITRR) in partnership with the University of Montana. The survey revealed that 71.2% of visitors had watched Yellowstone, leading to estimates that Yellowstone influenced 2.1M visitors to travel to Montana and resulted in $730M in associated spending in 2021. The BBER report summarized the total Yellowstone contribution to Montana’s economy in 2021 (including production and tourism spending) in the table below:


  • TOTAL EMPLOYMENT    10,240 jobs
  • PERSONAL INCOME    $376,100,000
    • Disposable Personal Income    $324,700,000
  • SELECTED STATE REVENUES    $44,500,000
  • OUTPUT    $1,059,400,000
  • POPULATION GROWTH    3,305 people

Read the full BBER report:

Many industries have benefited from the show, according to the report, with the most significant increases in employment evident in travel-related industries such as “accommodation and food services, and the arts, entertainment and recreation industries.” There were also noticeable gains in unrelated industries such as healthcare and retail that can be attributed to increases in population and tourism.  

Beyond the economic influences, Yellowstone has brought national attention to Montana’s farms and ranches. While not solely attributed to the show, Montana land values are at an all-time high. In August of 2022 the U.S Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service (USDA, NASS) released their report on 2022 land values. As noted by Montana Land Source, the summary only reports on agricultural production land and does not include recreational land, positioning the per acre land values much lower than if all types of Montana land had been included. Nevertheless, the data indicates a sharp increase in Montana land values from 2020 to 2022 and shows a 10% increase in land values from 2021 to 2022.

Image courtesy of Montana Land Source.

Read the full summary:

In addition to the attention Montana has received from Yellowstone, the COVID-19 pandemic and the “remote real estate” trend have brought many new visitors and residents to Montana. As discussed in Western Ranch Brokers article “Is There Still Room For Ranchers In Montana”, the recent population boom has been the biggest driver of land values in the last several years. Combined with the hit TV show, Montana saw record farm and ranch sales in 2020 and 2021, leaving current inventory extremely tight and land values at an all-time high. 

Even if you preferred the quieter times, before Montana was in Hollywood’s spotlight, all the attention has certainly impacted both Montana’s economy and land values. With several spin off television shows, it doesn’t seem like the Yellowstone franchise is going anywhere anytime soon. Whether you’re watching the show or just watching its impact, Yellowstone has us all tuning in.

If you’re considering buying or selling a ranch in this competitive market, Western Ranch Brokers has the experience and market knowledge to help you successfully navigate any transaction. Contact Western Ranch Brokers for more information and to see how we can go to work for you.

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