When Sports Get Knocked Off The Air.

Right now, a serious wildfire is threatening to burn all of Malibu — it’s already burned Castle Kasdan, and Pepperdine University’s been evacuated. What this means is that Los Angeles-area folk aren’t getting an NFL game on CBS (at least LA Observed says that all local stations save Fox are on the fire) and the NASCAR race on ABC has also been pre-empted for breaking news coverage.

UPDATE: CBS affiliate is showing Chiefs-Raiders; they knocked the fire coverage over to KCAL, which they also own.

This isn’t sitting particularly well with the few commenters on a thread about this topic as it pertains to the NASCAR race over at the FanHouse:

2. I guess I should not be surprised that we West coast fans are getting screwed by ABC/ESPN. FOX is currently showing the NFL game. I guess they figure that the ten other channels covering the fire are adequate for those who want to watch non-stop coverage of Malibu burning. I have sent my email complaint to ESPN. I hope everyone else affected by this will do the same. Not that they care!

7. ABC really sucks by showing the fire coverage and not the NASCAR race…who cares if Malibu is burning upl…it happens every year

9. Remind me to erase ch.7 from my remote and remove all their sponsors as well

Author “Tallglassofmilk” gets it right: this is on ESPN to have a contingency plan for these sorts of things, but sometimes you get screwed. However, the commenters are, as usual for most of the AOL FanHouse crowd, short-sighted. Just because every other channel is showing fire coverage doesn’t mean you should be able to see the sporting event when it comes on.

If any of the local broadcast channels with serious news departments don’t show the fire coverage as it threatens to destroy a prominent community and provide evacuation information, they’re not doing their job, plain and simple. L.A. viewers will probably not be able to watch Sunday Night Football, either, as I suspect KNBC will be holding down the fort on this for most of the evening.

(UPDATE #2: The Sunday nighter between the Steelers-Broncos went off without a hitch on L.A.’s NBC station — I was told they axed the pre-game.)

Despite the cracks we make about corporate-owned media and the truths behind it, local news stations who don’t dump sports for a major fire like this when it happens and threatens homes and businesses (never mind a university) aren’t serving the public interest, so get over your game being pre-empted.

9 Responses

  1. As a fellow So Cal resident, I can say KNBC did show the Sunday Night Football game.

    I wouldn’t have blamed them if they pre-empted it for fire coverage though. I luckily live an area that’s not in danger from any of the fires, but the air was filled with smoke, ash and dust all day long. I had to turn on the headlights in my car driving in the early afternoon. Family and friends not directly effected by the fires were still very interested in hearing the latest updates.

    You really can’t blame ABC for not showing the NASCAR race and having fire coverage. They’re one of the major news stations here, and a lot of people watch them. ESPN should have put it on one of their networks — hopefully, they’ll learn from this and adjust for next time.

  2. Gilbert – so I found out when live-blogging, as my co-live-blogger is in L.A and was able to watch. KNBC is owned by NBC, so it would have taken quite a lot to cut off its own gravy train.

    KABC just had nowhere to dump that race. KCBS owns KCAL and KTTV and KCOP are sister stations as well, so CBS and Fox could still show football and dump the news coverage off.

    I still wonder how ESPN would manage that for the future, given that it only took place in one market. Maybe something similar to a blackout-style deal.

  3. I always forget it’s you liveblogging Sunday nights on AA, even though I first found this blog from there in the first place. I’m brilliant. Keep up the good work there and here.

    You’re the TV expert, not me, but would it be that hard for ESPN to get the LA market the NASCAR race? They already split college football games into different markets sometimes.

  4. No, it shouldn’t be, not when you have planned blackouts for certain baseball and football games during the season. However, when natural, unpredictable events happen, it may take more work to make that sort of thing happen, and by the time everyone thought about it (if they really did at all), it was too late.

  5. Scary… I get annoyed myself when sports get pushed off television for disasters like this. Too depressing.

  6. i enjoy watching the nascar races and i was very mad that abc didn’t have a backup plan.i wish all the races were on fox they have the best people covering the races.i hope that abc doesn’t do this again this is the race for the chase i want to watch every race i was a angry fan

  7. OKAY!
    Every Friggin’ year, California catches fire. The only big difference this year is that no matter what you did you had coverage that outdid the “Attack on Baghdad”.
    If there is a reason to preempt a sports event for repetitiously redundant reporting, there should be a backup plan, so we can watch the NASCAR race for the NEXTEL Cup, in hi-def, delayed or not, instead of hearing about some millionaires property being scorched. If the fire was anywhere else, would it get as much coverage?
    I’m done with ABC, their sponsors and ESPN. I’m tired of the NASCAR last mentality of these jock(straps).

  8. The local ABC station was screwed here. They were going to alienate potentially large segments of viewers either way. If they go to fire coverage, they are going to annoy people like Steve (and likely everyone else reading this comment).

    At the same time, ABC’s news viewers may want to know what is going on with the fires. If ABC doesn’t have fire coverage but NBC does, this is a clear and strong signal that NBC has better news coverage. Local news organizations don’t exactly get a lot of chances to show they can gather news effectively. Yet local TV stations rely on their news programs to generate profits. This is why local TV stations are always chasing after breaking disasters, and why crimes always lead the evening news. For the local ABC station it’s a no-brainer, but not one that sports fans are going to prefer.

    The backup plan of putting the NASCAR race on ESPN specifically for the LA market is probably a lot harder to execute than we imagine. Even though the same corporation owns ABC, ESPN, and the local ABC affiliate doesn’t necessarily mean they can all huddle for five minutes and come up with a good plan to handle this type of situation. There are a lot of execs spread out across the country who would need to be involved in a major decision like this. Some may be on vacation because it is the weekend. Nonetheless, they choked on this one by not giving a presumably large audience of LA NASCAR fans any option for seeing the race.

  9. “Despite the cracks we make about corporate-owned media and the truths behind it, local news stations who don’t dump sports for a major fire like this when it happens and threatens homes and businesses (never mind a university) aren’t serving the public interest, so get over your game being pre-empted.”

    What is this? Communism? If ten other stations are covering the same damn thing and people are tired of watching homes burn down, why the hell should they be subjected to it? It’s absolutely ridiculous. And yes, it isn’t that hard for ESPN (or ESPN2) to air a sporting event that an ABC affiliate pre-empts (as long as ESPN or ESPN2 doesn’t have an important pre-scheduled live event going on.) ESPN2 has aired NBA games (which garner ratings about 1/4 of what NASCAR does) that ABC affiliates have pre-empted for various crap, like extended Super Bowl pre-game shows, parades, weather coverage, and other stupid local crap. The main problem here is that ABC/ESPN and its affiliates do not care about NASCAR coverage. This is sad, since their coverage before the 2001 contract with FOX/NBC was absolutely amazing and will probably never be duplicated.

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