Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Memo

Memo to all Master Control Staff,

From: Supreme Commander and Dark Lord of the Sith, General Station Manager Darth Profit,

RE: Sports Overruns


As you are aware, the issue of overlong sports programming is taking a toll on our operational procedures. Since the early days of television, there have always been scheduling overrun conflicts with live sports events. It's the nature of the business. But recently, sports overruns seem to be taking over our programming schedule to the point of disruption. The problem has grown to the point that, for the first time ever, CBS has officially shifted the start time of "60 Minutes" from 7pm to 7:30. And we still end up having to to slide it.

Some may blame this on replacement referees in the NFL, and indeed, the average pro football game clocks in at about 3 hours. But the NFL is far from being the only offender. Last Saturday's Notre Dame game ran just over 3-and-half hours, and there are no replacement refs to blame for that. And at a recent Florida State Patsy Bowl in which the Seminoles had Savannah State down by a score of 55-0, and after two lightning delays had Savannah's shorts pulled up over their heads, gave each player a swirly, and took their lunch money, both coaches and the officials agreed to just call it an official game and let everybody head for Ruby Tuesday's. You can't blame referees for that.

Nor is football the only sport causing the problem. The US Open Tennis Tournament can't seem to figure out that if you schedule an event in greater New York in early September, it's going to rain. Every time. Once again, the tournament was delayed a full day. CBS lost an entire Monday afternoon of programming, and trashed prime time as well, leaving over 200 affiliates saying, "We're sliding prime time? Really? Can't we just run some old Popeye cartoons to fill to the news?" And a recent NASCAR race ran so deep into the overnight hours that we (this is true) pre-recorded the newscast and ran it on tape so we could let the news and production crew go home to their families. It's as if the people responsible for sporting events truly believe the world stops for them, and the networks and local broadcasters are only pawns in a chess game where the rook just threw a flag and now we have to wait for the review.

However, station management has no reason to believe that sports event coordinators, network brass, and especially The Mouse (aka Disney) who love nothing more than a 5-hour marathon game on their ESPN networks - where the only victim of an overrun schedule is a bunch of guys playing poker - will take any action to alleviate this problem. As a result, we will be adjusting our master control and scheduling policies to reflect the New Normal in television broadcasting - that Normal being there is no such thing as "regularly scheduled programming."

Henceforth:

A Porto-Kamode has been placed by the master control room door. If we run out of toilet paper, feel free to use pages of the program log we're having to preempt due to a four-hour college football game.

Potty breaks are restricted to the first quarter of football, baseball rain delay filler programming, and the national anthem.

In a related note, some of you guys have been recycling pop bottles in master control during NASCAR races. Therefore, anyone picking up what they believe to be a bottle of Mountain Dew does so at their own risk.

The reading of books in master control is now permitted and encouraged in order to maintain consciousness during NFL games. A library has been installed to aid in this endeavor. Recommended titles during NFL games include: "War and Peace," "A Tale of Two Cities," "Great Expectations" the entire Harry Potter collection, the Boston telephone directory, and Elizabeth Taylor's wedding vows.

Instead of waiting for a game to end in order to get our local news on the air, we will now be inserting local news stories while the referees review a play. We predict this will double our story count.

During severe weather situations, operators will key in the weather info crawl OVER the score of the game in progress... due to the weather conditions changing more often than the score.

OPERATORS ARE TO REMEMBER:

The 2-minute warning means you have only 30 minutes to get back from the designated smoking area to master control. Plan accordingly.

No matter who is in the lead, the network will not break away from golf coverage until after TIGER sinks his putt on the 18th.

During baseball games, don't rely on pitching changes to get you through an emergency potty break until at least the fourth inning.

The use of "5-Hour Energy" is not recommended while on duty during a NASCAR event; you'll crash more often than the drivers.

If you are running a hockey game, NONE of these rules apply, due to the fact that the NHL just plays the game. Ha! And they wonder why nobody in America watches hockey.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Going Rogue

I usually don't get into politics in this blog, but I have to say I am glad the Republican convention is over. It's not because of any disagreement over political philosophy that I'm glad it's over; rather, as a master control operator of the major broadcast networks, I'm just happy to have the Gong Show off my air.

Wednesday night, Condoleezza Rice's prompter crashed, causing her to fly by the seat of her pants. Now here's a little inside info: at events such as this, the prompter system shows up on a monitor in front of the director back in the truck, allowing the director and producer to see where the speaker is in their speech, thus permitting them to prep and cue the anchor talent and work out timings for the broadcast overall. No prompter scrolling on a screen left the Big 3 networks wandering around on the air like a carload of tourists on a holiday weekend. Which is why, depending on which station you were watching, you saw parts of Condi's speech interrupted by blather, most of it joined in progress, or very little if any. Apparently, nobody working behind the scenes at the remote broadcasts of the RNC recognized the former Secretary of State or the fact that anything she had to say might be important. (Fairness disclosure: I just had to look up the spelling of her name.)

And then there was Clint Eastwood. I knew going in Thursday night's RNC coverage would run long, but nobody expected Eastwood to go completely off the reservation. Once again, the prompter feed was useless, and 3 network directors were left to throwing up their hands at the monitors. When the newsroom asked me if I had an out time, I said, "No idea. Dirty Harry has gone rouge." As it happened, we ended up with a 25-minute slide in late night programming. Thanks, Clint.

Next, we have the Democrat Convention to look forward to. Will Bubba show up flanked with bimbos on each arm a la George Burns circa 1990? (Rumor has it Clinton is keeping a low profile in order to keep the spotlight on Obama.) Will Alan Alda hijack the show with a monologue similar to his one-man-show "M*A*S*H" episode? Or will Babs crash the party and sing an extended version of "People?" Anything is possible. Conventions are more scripted and choreographed these days? Really? I know at least one TV station manager that wishes they were.