With a mass shooting in California dominating the day’s news, ABC, CBS and NBC each expanded their evening newscasts to a full hour to cover the story as it continued to unfold in San Bernardino.
But just before 7 p.m. ET, with live helicopter pictures showing police in Southern California preparing to move in on a bullet-ridden SUV, NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt said “a very volatile situation we’re following,” and then promised he’d be back on only “some stations” for a second half hour.
Holt returned on NBC-owned WMAQ in Chicago, WRC in Washington, KXAS in Dallas and WTVJ in Miami, but on stations including NBC-owned WCAU in Philadelphia and flagship WNBC in New York, Holt was not back, replaced by live coverage of the annual Christmas tree lighting at Rockefeller Center.
It was a decision that fell flat with some viewers:
NBC went from a shot of a bullet ridden SUV after a stand-off with police to the Rockefeller Xmas tree lighting.. a nice & smooth transition
— Daniel (@TheCzykRepublic) December 3, 2015
.@nbc has decided the tree lighting is the more important thing going on right now I guess.
— Doug T. (@DDougyy) December 3, 2015
NBC in NYC just cut away from their live coverage of San Bernadino to show us the annual Rockefeller Center Xmas tree lighting. #heidigame
— Ted Heller (@TedHeller) December 3, 2015
The hashtag #heidigame refers to the infamous 1968 programming decision made–also by NBC–to break away from a game between the Oakland Raiders and New York Jets to air the movie Heidi, keeping viewers from seeing Oakland score two touchdowns in the final minute of the game to beat the Jets.