NBC Refuses Pickens Plan Ad

Includes: CLNE, GE, UNG
by: Paul Killinger

T. Boone Pickens is up in arms over NBC's decision not to run one of his new TV ads promoting the use of natural gas as a transportation fuel, and an alternative to importing expensive foreign oil. In an e-mail to supporters Mr. Pickens is quoted as saying, "NBC is refusing to run one of our strongest ads, and I need your help in showing NBC they can't control what we can or cannot say."

The new 15-second TV spot, entitled "Iran is Changing Its Cars to Run on Natural Gas," calls attention to this development by this OPEC member country. In the ad Mr. Pickens is pictured saying, "Get this one. Iran is changing its cars to run on natural gas and we're not doing a thing here." His website says NBC wants him to "prove" the words, "we're not doing a thing here." The website states that all other TV networks have accepted the ad for airing.

Perhaps this confrontation between this Texas billionaire entrepreneur and TV network is much ado about nothing. Or maybe it's more than that. It is difficult to imagine this was simply a decision by some mid-level TV executive, and it was not approved by the head office of NBC. It also comes at a time when General Electric (NYSE:GE), which owns NBC, and CEO Jeff Immelt are under fire from shareholders for the giant company's lackluster financial performance. A public fight between a popular advertiser and NBC is the last thing he needs.

It will be interesting to see if NBC relents and runs the ad in question. Many Pickens Plan site bloggers are incensed by this snub, which some attribute to NBC's political bias or a conflict of interest by GE, which manufactures components for nuclear reactors and natural gas turbines for public utilities. However, since Mr. Pickens has ordered $2 billion of equipment from GE to operate his proposed wind farms, it is likely NBC's parent company will step in to diffuse this slight to one of their major customers before it escalates any further.

Disclosure: none