Does CBS have a contingency plan...

…for the Super Bowl in the event of major breaking news? I know that NBC used a split-screen during the OJ chase/NBA finals game. But an NBA finals game is hardly the ratings giant that a Super Bowl is, and the OJ chase was hardly a world-changing event. But what about something major (assassination, bombing, etc.)? Does CBS have plans in place to break into the game, or do they play it by ear? Seems like they this would be a lose-lose situation for CBS. If you don’t cover it, you’re missing a huge news event. If you do, you’re missing the Super Bowl (and millions of ad revenue, I assume). Or do the CBS execs just go into this hoping that nothing happens?

There are several different ways TV news can be handled. Breaking into programming, running a crawl along the bottom of the screen, split screens, audio announcements while leaving the video going (or vice versa), etc.

Also, since the Super Bowl is essentially a made for television event, I have no doubt there could be a timeout on the field that just happens to last the length of a news bulletin. And I suppose that $30 million half-time show could only be seen by the fans in the stadium.

It’s also possible to tape delay the broadcast while the news bulletins are running, but keep it going in “real time” --just a few minutes behind the live event.

Personally, I watch the Super Bowl for the commercials.

As for the rest of your post, I could offer educated guesses, but no hard facts. THIS part, I can factually address. I’ve shot two Super Bowls. Half Time shows, and Pre-Game shows. 1995, in Miami, and last year in Atlanta.
In both cases, we videotaped the Dress Rehearsals the night before. These were full up with talent and pyro. It is done for several reasons. If anything goes wrong, with the split-second staging, the videotape is running in tandem with the live show, usually to within a second or so. The TD ( Technical Director) can switch over to the taped Show, and while people might see a glitch, they wouldn’t know that it had switched as they were watching.

The Half-Time shows are big money performances, sponsored by someone other than the network, or the teams. My belief has been that the tape backup is essential, to make sure that the product is delivered.

I was also in the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Olympics in Atlanta. The Dress was done for 81,000 volunteers working the Games. We did Pre-Tape, but as far as I remember, not one bit of the pre-tape was used during the live telecast.


Clinton was scheduled to give his state of the union address the same time as the O.J. civil suit verdict came in. Suddenly, the speech was delayed for some stupid reason. Good thing: If the network had run a crawl across the screen screaming “GUILTY,” while Clinton was on, people would have been awfully confused.

When the World Trade Center was bombed, every TV station in NYC but CBS broadcasted from there. CBS was the only one broadcasting this major event until the other stations could feed through other channels.

You’ve just reminded me of something I haven’t thought about since the bombing. I was sitting in my parents’ living room that day, eating dinner early (had a rehearsal to get to) and flipping channels trying to figure out what was going on with the WTC, since, as you pointed out, the broadcasts were disrupted. I finally found Chuck & Sue (WNBC New York anchors, for those of you not familiar with the area) on some really high-numbered channel. I’m not exactly sure what was going on but it seemed they were taking what they could get as far as feeds go.

Sorry if that’s a hijack… to respond to the OP, I don’t know squat about network contingency plans but I would sincerely hope that if something as huge as a presidential assassination or a major city bombing took place, the game broadcast would be interrupted. But it would probably depend on how important the event was deemed; I bet they’d do a crawl instead of a break if, say, some world leader other than Bush was killed. This is all a WAG on my part, though.

Last time the Giants were in the Superbowl, we were bombing the stuffing out of Iraq. Surely someone remembers the network’s plans from then?

According to a news article I tracked down from the LA Times, back in 1991, ABC and the NFL agreed to just keep the Super Bowl going on schedule regardless of any developments in the Persian Gulf War.

The NFL was prepared to delay or postpone its conference championship games a day or two if there were any major developments. However, the White House and the Pentagon told them that they shouldn’t do that.

Since there is an interminably long pregame show to the Super Bowl, there was plenty of time to put in news updates.

:smiley: Funny, I felt as though I could have spent MORE time in front of Tina Turner last year in Atlanta…not less. The woman’s got energy !

And yes, Bob’s right. Breaking in to the pre and post game material is different than altering the pace of the game itself. Still, it’s a tough balance between delivering product, and delivering news.


Wow, what a coincindence that this question was asked for this year’s Superbowl!!! I mean, the way that the big game was on at the exact same time that that huge massacre was taking place down south.

Oh sorry, that was the Superbowl.

I noticed some video glitches during Walk This Way before Britney comes out. I get my feed over cable did anyone else notice the glitches?

These are tough calls, gang. Remember the Heidi fiasco? Anyway, some years later I am working as the technical director (who actually punches the buttons on the video switcher) for WABC Channel 7 in New York on Christmas Eve. And we’re playing the movie “White Christmas” which is supposed to be timed so that it ends just before the 6PM news. And (since I know this movie by heart) I suddenly realize that the last segment of the show has been mistimed…and if I let the computer do a pre-programmed switch to the newsroom video right at 6 PM, we will be cutting off old Bing and and a cast of hundreds right around “I’m dreaming of a white Chri-” Oooooops.

So I call the news control room and advise them, cheerfully, that they will be going on about twenty-five to thirty seconds late, since I’ll be overriding the computer. And then I ignore them yelling at me, make the switch late, and write it up in the trouble log.

Program director and news director backed my decision on December 26th. But I WAS a little worried they might have gone the other way-----

Almost all of the field cameras used on the shows are feeding their signals by RF Transmitters. Sometimes they get an Auto-Locating Antennae mounted on the rear portion of the camera. Sometimes the camera operator is tethered to a “pointer” whose job it is to always make sure the signal is pointed to a “catcher” dish mounted up high in the stands, and tended by a person whose job it is to make sure they catch the best signal they can from the pointer.

Most momentary glitches are caused by a lack of locked signal from a “pointer” to a “catcher”. Usually cable is faxed out during Full Fax before the rehearsals even get going, and therefore most cable holds up okay during a live show.

Except for The Preakness. In the fucking pouring rain. When my pointer got the cables soaked. :mad:

Me, I love the Auto-Locating Cameras, they permit me to work untethered. It’s safer, and I can move faster. Just a Steadicam Operator’s .02 cents.


Kudos all around, Aunt Pam. NOTHING more gratifying than an Attaboy from my T.D. du jour. Most of them are great defenders of their crews, and earn the respect of same crew members. And then…there’s the guy who gets me to score him Fire and Police badges everywhere we go. Ahh well, everyone needs a hobby. :smiley:

Wonder if I’ve ever shot for you?


Not really, no.

  • Rick