NBCU's Green(Wash?) Week


Green is UniversalThe entire suite of NBC Universal’s (GE) media properties is going on a green offensive this week with the tagline “Green is Universal.” The campaign is designed to raise environmental awareness and will highlight things viewers can do to live greener.

Green will be seen all across NBCU’s media outlets, from its main network to its cable stations to its Internet properties (though, notably, I could find nothing explicitly “green” on Hulu) — even in its theme parks. Al Gore will appear on “30 Rock” while Dunder Mifflin contemplates recycled paper products on “The Office.”

Critics and skeptics have already voiced concerns over the altruistic and substantive motives behind the network’s green initiative. Can network television, the mouthpiece of America’s consumptive lifestyle, really do anything to substantially improve sustainability? With 150 hours of green programming across two dozen major media properties, NBCU’s effort is a media blitz on par with this year’s Live Earth concert series. But is a giant media spectacle the best way to affect American energy consumption habits? Or is it just PR?

NBCU’s green week kicked off with the commentators on Sunday’s “Football Night in America’s” giving recaps in the dark. Joe Gesue explained that “four hours of power down in the studio could conserve about the same amount of energy it takes to power an average home for a month.” Between snickers, guffaws and giggles, the sports commentators feigned interest in the network’s green band-aid and rehashed the game under a heavy glow of candlelight and disaffection.

The “Today Show” dispatched reporters to both poles and the equator to bring in the story of global warming from around of the globe. Whether Al Roker standing in Ecuador talking about the origin of Panama hats will remedy CO2 buildup is up for debate.

“Green is Universal” comes as NBC continues to lag in the ratings and rumors circulate that parent conglomerate General Electric is considering selling off assets. The campaign fits in very well with GE’s Ecomagination efforts, however, which are growing and bringing in revenue.

Lauren Zalaznick, the head of NBC Universal’s Green Council, tells Joel Makower that “Green is Universal” is really a “multi-year, ongoing initiative.” We wonder on what grounds NBCU will measure the success of its campaign — will it be based on the results of a carbon calculator or the number of ad contracts it manages to renew?

NBCU’s green week is timed to go off air just as the networks ramp up for the spending spree that is the American holiday season. We’re not expecting coverage of a green Thanksgiving Day Parade that encourages viewers to consume less.

This story is cross-posted over at NewTeeVee.


Margaret Hsu

I watched the NBC prime time show for a few minutes. There was this video clip about “Green is Universal – Actors from Hero doing something Green”, which was several actors standing in front of Rockefeller Center doing the Photo Op with them shoveling soil into tiny little pots with skinny trees in the pots. Even more, the young kid actor pouring water from a plastic bottle into the pot. Can anyone tell me, if this is not green washing, what should we call this?

Matt Heinz

A week’s worth of programming and green logos will only go so far for an increasingly jaded “green” consumer. Environmentally conscious consumers want more than marketing gimmicks, they want results!

I’d love to see what NBC Universal is doing next week and beyond to make long-term organizational changes to its sustainability practices and carbon footprint.


This is an interesting thought. My belief is that “green” should be something everyone “just does” as part of business as usual, but what happens when business as usual is display? Must the green be on display?

Personally I’d rather see NBC use NiLA lighting and hire local newscasters to cover far-flung locations rather than jetting people around, but maybe that’s just me.

Comments are closed.