Broadcast networks occasionally break into sports programming with breaking news updates on something particularly unexpected, but what news is worthy of that is often up for debate. On Saturday, both CBS and ABC decided that news of the U.S. Senate voting to confirm Brett Kavanaugh’s controversial nomination to the Supreme Court passed that standard, breaking into their college football games about 15 minutes after the vote happened. With 4:55 left in the fourth quarter of the (weather-delayed) Maryland-Michigan game and a short injury delay, ABC threw to their news desk:
They came back to Maryland-Michigan in the middle of a pick-six from the Wolverines, with the broadcast not picking that up until after the throw:
Meanwhile, with a play stoppage in LSU-Florida after a LSU injury and a third down and goal situation coming up, CBS first went to a Nationwide commercial, then rolled right into a Kavanaugh update:
That update lasted approximately two minutes, and then they returned to game coverage, fortunately before the next play:
Meanwhile, Fox doesn’t appear to have broken into news coverage during Ohio State-Indiana. NBC did break into news coverage in the middle of the rugby match they were showing:
Plenty of people yelled at CBS and ABC for their decisions (language warning):
— Nichole Wierschem Santee (@Nichole_Lynn33) October 6, 2018
Can't even watch the LSU game for some escapism without Kavanaugh bursting in and forcing me to see his confirmation.
Thanks CBS for that special report.
— Grumbholdt (@Grumbholdt) October 6, 2018
@CBSNews I don’t care about the kavanaugh shit quit interrupting my Gator game.
— Hensley (@Hensley352) October 6, 2018
@CBSNews keep your political shit off the air while football is on. Thank you ✌🏼
— D.Beezy (@VFLBEEZY) October 6, 2018
— 🇺🇸FOobZ〽️ (@FO0bZ) October 6, 2018
ABC just cut the Michigan game off to show some political bullshit jesus fucking christ I hate 2018.
— #BeatMARYLAND (4-1) (@nunavutisgod) October 6, 2018
Meanwhile, there don’t appear to be many complaints about NBC, but many less people were watching that broadcast. In any case, this was an interesting call from the networks. The confirmation of a Supreme Court justice is certainly a big deal, but Saturday’s vote going in Kavanaugh’s favor was expected by many after another vote hurdle was cleared Friday, so this wasn’t exactly a shocking development. And it’s a highly polarizing story, and breaking into sports coverage with that carries some risks.
The timing of these reports also meant this wasn’t news to many who had already seen it on the internet. And those who were particularly interested in it probably were seeking it out on the internet, not waiting for a broadcast network to break into their programming. And it’s also curious that these networks felt the need to do this on the main broadcast networks, as both CBS (CBSN) and NBC (MSNBC) have affiliated channels devoted to just-the-news. But these three networks made the call to break into their sports programming for this, and that produced plenty of criticism.