CBS Knocked For Super Bowl Blackout Coverage

By Alex Weprin Comment

The big story everyone is talking about from last night’s Super Bowl was the blackout that enveloped half of the SuperDome in the second half. CBS released a statement trying to explain how the blackout affected its coverage:

“Immediately after the power failure in the Superdome, we lost numerous cameras and some audio powered by sources in the Superdome. We utilized CBS’s back-up power and at no time did we leave the air. During the interruption, CBS Sports’ Steve Tasker, Solomon Wilcots and our studio team reported on the situation as a breaking news story, providing updates and reports while full power was being restored to the dome including our sets and broadcast booth. All commercial commitments during the broadcast are being honored.”

The CBS team was dealt a tough hand, clearly, but that hasn’t stopped critics from taking aim at how its reporters handled the blackout. The pressing issue: there was essentially no explanation for why the blackout happened, and no reaction from the NFL or the teams. The blackout was spent showing highlights and vapid analysis from the studio team, with James Brown saying that power would be restored “in 15 minutes” at least twice.

“The CBS cameras showed John Harbaugh on the field, obviously highly agitated, but no one bothered to tell us what the coach was so agitated about,” Wrote the Baltimore Sun‘s David Zurawik. (Harbaugh talked about it a bit on “Today” this morning.)

“Meanwhile, as this was all going on, CBS provided us with zero information on what was actually going on, what the NFL was saying, what the coaches felt, what the referees had been advised, hell, what a couple of fans were thinking as they sat in darkness,” writes Will Leitch at Sports On Earth. “It was just Tasker, to Wilcots, to Brown, to Sharpe to Sharpe to Sharpe, all of them that yammering on aimlessly as the seconds ticked by on the highest-rated television program of the year.

“At a time when they should have been aggressively gathering news, CBS’ crew was satisfied with the crumbs the NFL dropped on them. And they swallowed the scraps gladly,” wrote Bob Raissman in the NY Daily News. “Not once during the 34-minute delay did a representative of the National Football League appear on camera to attempt to explain what caused half the Superdome to lose power. Why should they? No one from CBS put any pressure on them.”