Power outage electrifies CBS Super Bowl broadcast
Half the lights are out in the Superdome during a power outage in the second half of the NFL Super Bowl XLVII football game between the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)
NEW YORK (AP) — When the lights went out at the Super Bowl, CBS' telecast got a jolt.
The power outage in the Super Dome in New Orleans sent the network scrambling and silenced its announcers for about half an hour. The remarkable scene — probably the most-watched "we're having technical difficulties" moment in television history — also made CBS' broadcast compelling at a time when the game was looking like a blow-out.
Early in the game's second half, a portion of the Superdome lost power, including CBS' broadcasting booth where Jim Nantz and Phil Simms were calling the game. It led to an awkward, ambient few moments of darkness and quiet 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. Social media went wild with a stream of joke conspiracy theories.
Eventually, CBS sideline reporter Steve Tasker — the MVP on the night, regardless of the play on the gridiron — announced the problem of a "click of the lights" to viewers. Later, the halftime crew anchored by host James Brown returned to fill 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 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.
San Francisco 49ers punter Andy Lee (4) looks on during a power outage in the second half of the NFL Super Bowl XLVII football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Calm and collected, Nantz and Simms finally returned from their unexpected exile as the lights came back on. Simms said he momentarily thought they were going to have to call the rest of the game from the sidelines.
"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.
CBS issued a statement later in the game, saying that "we lost numerous cameras and some audio powered by sources in the Super Dome." The network said it used backup power and that "all commercial commitments during the broadcast are being honored."