NEW YORK >> A power outage during the Super Bowl sent CBS scrambling and knocked its announcers off the air.
The biggest broadcast event of the year was suddenly jolted by silence and darkness when a portion of the Super Dome in New Orleans lost power early in the game’s second half. CBS’ announcers, Jim Nantz and Phil Simms, were part of the outage and unable to explain the situation to viewers.
That 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.
It was possibly the most-watched “we’re having technical difficulties” moment in television history. The Super Bowl last year drew a record-setting 111.3 million average viewers.
Eventually, CBS sideline reporter Steve Tasker announced the problem of a “click of the lights” to viewers. Later, the halftime crew anchored by host James Brown returned to fill the 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 on the air 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.
For more than 30 minutes, Nantz and Simms were off air. They finally returned 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.
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.