Super Bowl XLVII is in the books, complete with ratings that make it the highest-rated Super Bowl in metered markets in history (48.1 household rating/71 share, edging Super Bowl XLV between Green Bay and Pittsburgh, which clocked in at 47.9/71), plenty of drama, and, of course, a power outage at New Orleans’ Mercedes-Benz Superdome that is still a bit of a mystery. The outage caused CBS Sports to lose audio to the broadcast booth and to a number of cameras although generator power on the studio set and in the broadcast compound prevented the network’s coverage from going off-air.
“Things are going to happen, and it becomes about how fast you can clean it up, and the power outage is an example of a pretty good recovery,” says Ken Aagaard, EVP, production, operations, and engineering, CBS Sports. “The biggest fear was that the lights would come back on and we would still have no power to the booth, but that didn’t happen.”
Broadcasters operating on generator power provided by Aggreko noticed the outage as the monitors displaying cameras connected to shore power in the affected part of the building went black, coaches and players still visible pointed upwards to the darkened ceiling, and audio communications with staffers in the stadium were lost.
CBS quickly put a plan in action, getting the halftime studio set back up and running and getting Steve Tasker, Solomon Wilcots, and its studio team in place to report on the situation as a breaking-news story. Other steps taken included moving the Skycam to a safe location away from the field and parking it in case there were additional issues and to prevent its being stuck over the field.
The NFL world feed was also affected, although an uninterruptible power supply gave the broadcast announce team a couple of minutes to explain what was happening before it too ran out of juice.
“Our world-feed cameras and truck stayed live,” says Glenn Adamo, VP of media operations, NFL, “and we were fine as our own generator kept the truck and equipment up.”
While the blackout situation could have overshadowed all of Super Bowl week (especially if the San Francisco 49ers had won and the 34-minute delay could have been a factor in the outcome), the CBS team walks away with much more than experience in dealing with power outages. CBS Sports Network, for example, offered 53 hours of programming during the week and became a programming force that will be used by CBS at nearly all major sports events in the future.
“We really kicked ass across the board,” says Aagaard. “It’s such a big show to begin with, and, with what we had going on at Jackson Square and Radio Row, it was huge. There were three venues that had a lot of things going on at the same time, and it really showed the synergy of the CBS Sports Network and CBS Sports.”
Patty Power, SVP, operations and administration, CBS Sports Network, concurs, adding, “The week was a great step for us to showcase our ability, and this brought us all together.”
For example, after the game, CBS Sports Network stayed on-air for an extra 45 minutes, giving time for CBS Sports NFL studio show talent to interview Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, coach John Harbaugh, and, closing out the show, linebacker Ray Lewis, arguably the man of the week as the future NFL Hall of Famer ended his career.
“We’re going to be a tough act to follow,” says Aagaard. “And we’ll be in New York next year and Phoenix the year after that.”
A Learning Opportunity
The 4K–instant-replay efforts undertaken by For-A, Evertz, FUJINON, and NEP ultimately resulted in only one replay’s making it to air, and the opportunity for Heyeperzoom to zoom in on a defining moment never actually came to pass. But the efforts were still valuable.
“We learned how to use it, and it is something that is going to be around next year, and, hopefully, we will be able to use,” says Aagaard. “Ultimately, all cameras will be 4K.”
The Evertz Mosaic was the biggest technical advance making it to air the most. Allowing the screen to be split into segments that show synchronized angles from different cameras is a tool that Aagaard also says will be tested during CBS’s PGA coverage this season.
“I can see using it with four or five cameras around the green to show reactions,” he adds. “We really learned a lot about that technology as well.”
Three years from now, CBS Sports will be back for Super Bowl L (or Super Bowl 50 to modern folk), and Aagaard is already thinking about how that show will come together. For now, though, it’s time to get about 50 staffers from New Orleans to Pebble Beach, CA, for the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am golf tournament.