GO
Loading...

GDP revisions...and why Kardashians don't kount

Kim Kardashian
Jennifer Graylock | Getty Images
Kim Kardashian

The economy is a lot bigger than we think, but no thanks to Kim Kardashian and her cohorts in the world of reality TV.

Experts at the Bureau of Economic Analysis have gone all the way back to 1929 to recalculate the size of gross domestic product, and a key ingredient will be the contribution that entertainment makes.

Film, long-running television shows and some aspects of the literary world, which previously had not been counted, now will be included.

What won't count, though, are wildly popular reality shows like "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" and "Jersey Shore."

Turns out their contributions just aren't lasting enough.

"Investment in reality programming or the production of reality programming is not going to be counted as investment, because the asset produced isn't long-lived," BEA spokesman Thomas Dail said. "There's not that sort of revenue stream that goes on into the future."

Entertainment will need to possess three qualities to be counted: Ownership rights, a long life, and repeated use.

"That's why something like a motion picture will be included as investment even after the movie has its initial run in theaters. (It will have) streaming, DVD sales, online sales, TV movie of the week," Dail said. "That future stream of production makes it an investment."

The new adjustments show the U.S. economy is now worth about $16.6 trillion, up from just under $16 trillion previously.

In addition to entertainment, the new calculations include research and development, transactions involving defined benefit pension plans, and nonfinancial ownership transfer costs in real estate, or the costs involved in sales beyond agent commissions.

(Read more: GDP revisions will go back to 1929)

While it may all sound like economist mumbo-jumbo, the measure will be part of the equation the Federal Reserve will use to decide how much longer its unprecedented accommodative monetary policies will stay in place.

Michael Feroli, chief U.S. economist at JPMorgan braced against naysayers who believe the government has ulterior motives for performing the new calculations.

"Whenever we change statistics like this, there always are some people who think it's a government conspiracy or something," he told CNBC's "Squawk on the Street." "But this is an international movement to take a more complete look at intangible capital, which is increasingly important, more so than tangible capital."

(Read more: Forget growth, China is contracting, experts say)

While the revisions ultimately proved to be not quite as significant as economists thought, they are important in understanding the U.S. economic dynamics, Michelle Meyer, U.S. economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said in an analysis.

(Read more: The new American poor: 4 in 5 live in danger of it)

"We think the revisions will be significant," Meyer said. "Historical benchmark revisions show the most significant changes are made to recent history, suggesting we are likely to learn that this past recession was a bit deeper and recovery a bit stronger."

In the broad scale, the calculations likely will weigh into how the Fed decides to proceed with its quantitative easing program.

The central bank is buying $85 billion a month worth of Treasurys and mortgage-backed securities, but is likely to start easing the throttle on those purchases before the end of the year.

On one hand, the revisions will show a broader economy that may have been growing lately at a somewhat faster pace than thought, justifying the tapering on asset purchases.

On the other, Feroli said growth for the second quarter likely was around 0.5 percent, a view that is only slightly more downcast than consensus. And it is the rate of growth, not the total size of the economy, that moves markets.

(Read more: 'Walking Dead' market: Why the rally keeps going)

Meyer said the GDP revisions could reinforce the current trend in Fed policy.

"Overall, the revisions will reveal a stronger household sector, which is wealthier and thriftier than previously believed," she said.

"It will also show that the economy fared better over the past year than was initially reported, implying greater momentum heading into this year. This provides support for the more optimistic outlook from the Federal Reserve and tapering before year-end."

—By CNBC's Jeff Cox. Follow him @JeffCoxCNBCcom on Twitter.

(Correction: An earlier version of the story contained incorrect information about what areas of entertainment will be used in the new GDP figures.)

Contact CNBC Explains

  • CNBC NEWSLETTERS

    Get the best of CNBC in your inbox

    › Learn More*

Latest Special Reports

  • File photo: Participants at a hacking conference in Germany

    A series of high profile cyber attacks has created huge economic opportunity as businesses look to fend off future attacks.

  • Whether you're young and just getting started investing or moving closer to retirement, factoring in age will keep you ahead of the game.

  • Advisor-centric content with guest columns covering practice management, investment strategies and marketing/social media.

Central Banking Explained

Corporate Accounting Explained