Outage electrifies CBS broadcast
AP Entertainment Writer
NEW YORK -- When the lights went out at the Super Bowl, CBS' telecast got a jolt.
The power outage in the Super Dome in New Orleans sent the network scrambling and silenced its announcers for 30 minutes. The remarkable scene -- probably the most-watched "we're having technical difficulties" moment in television history -- also made CBS' broadcast compelling at a time when the game was looking like a blow-out.
Early in the game's second half, a portion of the Super Dome lost power, including CBS' broadcasting booth where Jim Nantz and Phil Simms were calling the game. It led to an awkward, ambient few moments in a broadcast that's otherwise nonstop noise. A highly orchestrated media event was suddenly forced to improvise.
It took several minutes and numerous commercial breaks for CBS to find its footing and inform viewers of the situation. Social media exploded in joke conspiracy theories.
Eventually, CBS sideline reporter Steve Tasker -- the MVP on the night, regardless of play on the gridiron -- announced the problem of a "click of the lights" to viewers. Later, the halftime crew anchored by host James Brown returned to fill time with football analysis. Brown said a power surge caused the outage.
That left the CBS NFL Today crew of Brown, Dan Marino, Bill Cowher and Shannon Sharpe to improvise by talking football. With little awareness of the power outage, the group bantered about the game to pad for time, even though viewers at that point had little interest in football strategy. Marino claimed halftime performer Beyonce knocked the lights out.
Calm and collected, Nantz and Simms finally returned from their unexpected exile as the lights came back on.
"Hey, the next time you decide to plug in your phone charger, give us a warning, will you?" said Nantz.
"I was doing some of my best work during that blackout," replied Simms.
Simms said he momentarily thought they were going to have to call the rest of the game from the sidelines.
CBS issued a statement later in the game, saying that "we lost numerous cameras and some audio powered by sources in the Super Dome." The network said it used back-up power and that "all commercial commitments during the broadcast are being honored."
The power outage may have had the ironic effect of keeping viewers glued to their TVs, amazed at seeing the biggest TV event of the year momentarily shut down. At the time of the outage, the game was becoming a rout, with the Baltimore Ravens beating the San Francisco 49ers 28-6.
But afterward, momentum shifted and the 49ers rallied, making it a close game that went down to the wire. Close contests are essential for retaining a big Super Bowl audience. The last three years, the game has successively set viewership records. Last year's Super Bowldrew 111.3 million average viewers for NBC.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.