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danderson500

Is it rare for prime-time to be interrupted?

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Is it a rare thing when prime-time programming is interrupted for a bulletin? The impeachment votes, the Syria situation and Bin Laden being killed are a few examples.

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I can think of only a handful of instances when the network has interrupted prime-time TV for news. If anything, they usually provide brief bulletins during the commercial breaks.

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In relation to interrupting morning, afternoon and early evening — yes, very rare to interrupt primetime. As @MorningNews said, the first option in primetime would be an update during network commercial breaks. Primetime interruptions need the clearance of several departments at a network and it depends what’s on TV at the time.  Interrupting other weekday day parts is easier because News is most likely interrupting their own morning news programming across half the country or local programming that stations can sometimes have the option to stick with. 
 

Another rare interruption would be during sports programming where contractual obligations often severely limit the network from interrupting. 

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I've always assumed networks have a certain threshold for special coverage depending on the situation, and time of day. I distinctly remember the news of John McCain's death coming down during a Saturday College Football game. I'm unsure about other networks, but CBS ran what might have been a pre-taped Special Report during a 1st half commercial to announce his death, and then a long-form Special Report during halftime where they went into his life, legacy, etc.

 

Otherwise, I think networks do everything they can to avoid blowing out any portion of Primetime programming. During Trump's Impeachment Trial, CBS, ABC, NBC, and Fox all aired short and sweet wrap-up Special Reports at the very bottom of the hour before local programming on the East Coast. The only time I recall primetime programming getting trampled on is when Obama made his late evening announcement on the death of Bin-Laden, and the debacle that was network coverage after the Boston Marathon Bombings. I'll never forget every major network taking air to announce arrests had been made, only to find out minutes later that the rumor was untrue.

 

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Also, a small bit of history: I'm a huge NASCAR fan, and one of my first racing memories is a post-9/11 race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. NASCAR was minutes away from starting a race when Operation Enduring Freedom started/was announced. In the immediate chaos, the race was put in a hold, NBC's track team tossed to the network, and it took about 30 minutes for the race to get back on air on TNT and pre-race ceremonies to begin. NBC came back to the race with about 20 laps to go, marking the first (and only time that I know of) a race had been simulcast on two separate networks at the same time.

 

 

I'd be curious to know if any other sports had the same issue. I assume NFL Sunday's was as big in 2001 as it is now, so how did CBS, FOX, etc handle it all?

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This is a bit of a unique example as it wasn't national news, per se, but was treated as such by CBS News because Bob Simon was one of their own. This aired during a commercial break in primetime and is typical of the "breaking news during commercial break" style of special report:

 

 

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It largely depends on the time of day, the network, and the gravity of the situation.  I seem to recall a notable death (like Strom Thurmond) took place by a crawl on NBC when it happened. 

When Peter Jennings' death happened in 2005, it was reported about the time Nightline was on the air.  When Tim Russert died in 2008, the networks broke in during the day, since it was a weekday.

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Posted (edited)

@TheGuru That race is really interesting from a production standpoint, and I imagine that truck had its hands full all day. Notice how only the final 20 laps have a US flag graphic on them.

  

5 minutes ago, tyrannical bastard said:

It largely depends on the time of day, the network, and the gravity of the situation.  I seem to recall a notable death (like Strom Thurmond) took place by a crawl on NBC when it happened. 

When Peter Jennings' death happened in 2005, it was reported about the time Nightline was on the air.  When Tim Russert died in 2008, the networks broke in during the day, since it was a weekday.

 

I distinctly recall Russert's death announcement on NBC. It was a Saturday, and the network was in the middle of a golf tournament and (out of nowhere) tossed to NBC News. I knew as soon as Brokaw (who had already semi-retired) appeared that something quite unusual was up.

Edited by Samantha
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Posted (edited)

One large pre-emption comes to mind of course; when the Up to the Minute team broke into the last minute of a new CSI:NY to relay the death of Yasser Arafat, which boiled the execs at CBS News who had a 'do not break in, just crawl it' order on that death (it happened minutes before 11 p.m., where local newscasts easily could have relayed the news without issue). They did, and the UTTM team apparently lost their pre-emption privileges completely the next business day, with the shot-calling producer fired.

Edited by mrschimpf

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6 hours ago, mrschimpf said:

One large pre-emption comes to mind of course; when the Up to the Minute team broke into the last minute of a new CSI:NY to relay the death of Yasser Arafat, which boiled the execs at CBS News who had a 'do not break in, just crawl it' order on that death (it happened minutes before 11 p.m., where local newscasts easily could have relayed the news without issue). They did, and the UTTM team apparently lost their pre-emption privileges completely the next business day, with the shot-calling producer fired.

That's not nearly as bad as when the Season 12 finale of Dallas (in 1989) was interrupted twice, first by the declaration of martial law in Beijing, then by live video of officials with the Chinese government ordering the CBS crew to leave the hotel where they were staying (they had been there for the visit of then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to China; the pro-democracy demonstrations there really started to take off around that time).

 

In this case, CBS considered rerunning the episode, but chose not to, although they did air a short 3-minute recap of the episode before airing a scheduled movie in Dallas' time slot the very next week (at that time, CBS aired movies on Fridays during the summer when Dallas Falcon Crest did not air). On the other hand, in the example of CSI:NY, the network rebroadcast the episode in full two nights later.

 

FWIW, I did get a chance to see the Dallas episode in question on DVD years later, and it clearly was not one of the show's best episodes or season finales, although it was notable for being Linda Gray's final episode as Sue Ellen Ewing....

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A major blunder was in the days leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. 

 

ABC was in wall-to-wall coverage and decided to dump out at the last minute before the 10/11pm news on the Eastern and Central time zones.  Many stations were blindsided by this move and were not expecting to put on a late newscast, and had to scramble to put something on the air (much like the Dan Rather tennis disaster where he stormed off the set). 

 

One station that was planning on doing a newscast was WYTV in Youngstown, and broadcast it on PBS stations WNEO and WEAO.  I would imagine that WYTV ended up airing it as well, but at the time, they had a very weak on-air signal into suburban Akron.  WEAO serves the Cleveland-Akron area as a secondary PBS station while WNEO serves Youngstown as their sole PBS station.

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18 hours ago, Samantha said:

@TheGuru That race is really interesting from a production standpoint, and I imagine that truck had its hands full all day. Notice how only the final 20 laps have a US flag graphic on them.

I'm a big NASCAR fan as well and even though I didn't really didn't start following NASCAR until roughly the last year or two of the Winston Cup era if I remember correctly even when NBC came back from that SR in 2001 I believe it still had the TNT logo on it and the pit reporters I believe had their TNT firesuit on even after NBC rejoined the race and I think the last 20 laps of the race or so was a simulcast between NBC and TNT.

 

That day had to be one of the craziest days in the 5 year partnership between NBC and Turner covering NASCAR with NBC having to break away from the race to do the SR and everything else surrounding that.

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2 hours ago, Liugrad2020 said:

Did any of the networks to a special report on the passing of John Lewis?

Yes, ABC and CBS. I saw CBS and they used a KCBS reporter.

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ABC broke in a bit before midnight on Friday night.  Tai Hernandez anchored the break-in and Byron Pitts narrated the piece.

 

 

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Posted (edited)
On 7/18/2020 at 1:54 AM, Samantha said:

@TheGuru That race is really interesting from a production standpoint, and I imagine that truck had its hands full all day. Notice how only the final 20 laps have a US flag graphic on them.

  

 

I distinctly recall Russert's death announcement on NBC. It was a Saturday, and the network was in the middle of a golf tournament and (out of nowhere) tossed to NBC News. I knew as soon as Brokaw (who had already semi-retired) appeared that something quite unusual was up.

 

I remember watching it live too, but the report interrupted the second round of the U.S. Open Golf Tournament and Brokaw was there because Brian Williams was overseas and set to anchor NN from wherever location he was (I forget at the moment). It took place on a Friday. And yes, I felt the same way about Brokaw's appearance too. Such a sad day.

This was how CBS covered the death of Peter Jennings:

 

 

Edited by Chris Hadley

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I remember that too. Not because they tossed to NBC News, but because Brokaw was on-camera.  It seem fitting that Brokaw would be  the anchor, rather than Brian Williams, to announce Russert's death.

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14 minutes ago, Chris Hadley said:

 

I remember watching it live too, but the report interrupted the second round of the U.S. Open Golf Tournament and Brokaw was there because Brian Williams was overseas and set to anchor NN from wherever location he was (I forget at the moment). It took place on a Friday. And yes, I felt the same way about Brokaw's appearance too. Such a sad day.

 

 

Brian Williams was anchoring Nightly News from Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan when this happened in '08 (info from Vanderbilt News Archive).....

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