Update: NBC okays Boone Pickens “Iran” ad

We blogged earlier that NBC Universal had rejected T. Boone Pickens’ latest advertisement about U.S. dependence on foreign oil entitled “Iran,” even as its business network CNBC was always happy to hear what the oil tycoon had to say whenever oil prices hit record highs.

It seems Pickens may have spoken too soon when he issued a statement that cited NBC Universal as the only network to reject his 15-second ad. NBC, which couldn’t be reached earlier for comment, now tells us that they’ve greenlighted the commercial.

Pickens, who funded the “Swift Boat” attacks on Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry in 2004, had said in a letter to NBC Universal Chief Executive Jeff Zucker:

We are puzzled by your decision not to run this ad because by not running it, you are selectively applying the First Amendment and denying your viewers access to information that is important to their education and understanding of the issue of energy independence.

Here’s NBC’s response:

We have been airing seven of the eight advertisements that were submitted for broadcast by T. Boone Pickens. As we were in the process of clearing the eighth, Mr. Pickens released his statement prematurely.

That will be $1 billion, thank you very much

hammer.jpgNBC Universal has officially locked up more than $1 billion in advertising sales for the Olympics — and says it has more to sell as the games begin on Friday.

The media company majority-owned by General Electric has said all along that it was aiming for sales in excess of $1 billion, and has trumpeted the 3,600 hours of coverage it is running across the NBC network, cable channels, and online sites.

By some estimates, 30-second TV spots have been going for around $750,000, showing that live events are commanding top dollar from advertisers because they represent one of the few programming choices that consistently draw mass audiences. Moreover, viewers tend to watch such broadcasts in real time, rather than on digital video recording devices that allow viewers to skip through commercials.

Waiting on the News Corp news

murdoch.jpgCome Tuesday, all eyes will be on News Corp.

The company’s earnings report should cast some more light on what’s happening in the media world – both in the United States and abroad. This is, after all, a media company with enormous reach and one whose shares have been hammered this year on worries about a slowdown.

For those who are impatient, Rupert Murdoch made some comments today that are worth noting. First and foremost, he said television advertising in the United States was good, despite a slowing economy (it’s easier to say that when your network is home to “American Idol”).

“Our advertisement on television and the Internet is very, very good, except for local television,” he said. “Cable networks are all sold out for 12 months,” he said, adding that Britain was holding up “very well”.

Neither wind, rain nor a classroom will keep iPhone fans away

iphone.jpgHere we go…

Two days before the iPhone’s launch, fans around Asia are queuing up to buy Apple’s latest offering. They don’t seem to care that it’s raining or freezing cold or if lining up early means missing work or school.

The July 11 launch will be the first chance, after all,  for Asian consumers to own an iPhone.

“I’ve told my professor I was going to go buy an iPhone, and he gave me permission,” said Hiroyuki Sano, a 24-year-old graduate student who early on Tuesday arrived in rainy Tokyo from Nagoya to be first in line. Sano, speaking to Reuters, and incidentally wearing a T-shirt with an Apple logo, described his professor as an equally big Apple fan. “He sent me off cheerfully.”

Happy Monday! Your stock rating has just been cut

nyse.jpg It wasn’t exactly an auspicious start to the week for entertainment companies.

Right out of the box, Lehman Brothers analyst Anthony DiClemente cut his rating on News Corp, Disney, CBS and Time Warner. Not one of them is now rated above “equal weight” by the broker.  And he stuck the whole entertainment sector with a negative rating.

What’s the deal, DiClemente? Well, he points out that television and film companies are barreling toward the same sort of problems that have created such headaches for the music business. Remember how the major music labels seemed so ill-prepared for that whole Internet thing?

A summer romance for GE and Time Warner?


We’re moving into summer now — peak wedding time. Naturally, all sorts of mergers are on the mind.

Take a much-speculated about combination of Time Warner and NBC Universal, a subject that inevitably pops up when anybody talks about potential mergers in the media world. Thanks to Newsweek, it’s once again making the rounds.

Here’s the key takeway from the article:

And so they have begun preliminary efforts to explore a commingling of their entertainment assets-combining GE’s NBC Universal with Time Warner-in hopes of eventually igniting investor enthusiasm and pumping up their stock prices, according to media-industry executives familiar with the developments but not authorized to comment.

Another day, another pulled advertisement

stone.jpgIt has been a tricky week for celebrity endorsers.

First, Dunkin’ Donuts pulled an online ad featuring Rachael Ray when a blogger created a firestorm over a scarf worn by the celebrity chef, calling it ”hate couture.” The advertisement, with Ray wearing a black and white scarf, ran for a couple of weeks before Dunkin’ Donuts removed it last weekend. Critics said the scarf looked like a keffiyeh, a traditional Arab headdress.

Here’s the response from Ahmed Rehab, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations:”It’s sad that Dunkin’ Donuts pandered to that kind of fear-mongering. They have businesses in the Middle East, in the Arab world. It’s interesting to see how that will affect business there.”

Sharon Stone, the actress, also found herself under criticism this week but for some comments she made in a TV interview rather than anything she was or wasn’t wearing. At Cannes, she said that the earthquake in China may have been “bad karma” related to Beijing’s policies in Tibet.

Olympics: The good and bad of a country

newearthquake.jpgChina and the Olympics bring up thorny subjects about media coverage, politics and human rights. The recent devastating earthquake that killed more than 68,000 people introduces a whole new angle to the games and how the media will cover them.

As chairman of NBC Universal Sports and Olympics, Dick Ebersol is keeping close tabs on the situation. He was asked about it during a call with reporters today. Here’s what he said:

I have to say that when the IOC gave the games to the Chinese in 2001, I was in Moscow that day. The feeling I came away with that day was it would be a major changing event for China. I knew it would be a rocky road to get there and there would be lots of protests and opposition movements but I really believed as I’ve seen happen so many times — this is the 40th year of my life that I’ve been involved with the Olympics — and every country, particularly those that were not democracies that hosted the games were changing events for that society.

Zucker upbeat on offbeat upfront

zucker.jpgIn one of the busiest weeks for network TV executives, NBCU’s Jeff Zucker nonetheless stopped by an Avenue A/Razorfish event for a question-and-answer session with the ad company’s vice president of media & entertainment, Domenic Venuto.

Not surprisingly, given it is upfront week, one of the first questions put to Zucker centered on his media company’s rather untraditional upfront.

(A quick refresher: NBC unveiled its lineup for 2008-09 last month, and Monday skipped its usual splashy upfront presentation at Radio City in favor of what it called the NBCU Experience over at 30 Rockefeller Center. For more details click here). 

Living the NBCU “Experience”

rock-center.jpgInstead of a big, crazy upfront presentation at Radio City, NBC Universal this year invited advertisers and media to its Experience at 30 Rockefeller Center. Here’s a guided tour:

First off, you’re greeted by a TV screen featuring clips from NBC stars like Tina Fey and Brian Williams, who make some jokes and ham it up and basically tell you to move along, which you were really going to do anyway since you’re just standing there in the hallway.

There really isn’t a lot to see in the first few rooms (promotional videos, etc) except that walking around are a bunch of people dressed in all black with, if you can picture it, video screens on their chests.