‘Technical difficulties’ means ‘CBS Evening News’ doesn’t air in most eastern, central markets

CBS News experienced a technical meltdown that caused most viewers in the eastern and central time zone to miss Tuesday, March 19, 2020’s “CBS Evening News.”

The network tweeted that “technical difficulties” were causing issues with the broadcast about 13 minutes after the broadcast should have started at 6:30 p.m. eastern, 5:30 p.m. central.

“We will bring you the CBS Evening News as soon as possible,” the tweet continued.

Anyone in the affected time zones hanging in there for the issues to get sorted out were left disappointed, however, as the broadcast never made it to air that evening.

The first sign that something was wrong was that viewers were treated to over three minutes of promos for shows such as “FBI” and “Bull” that aired back to back.

Eventually, the feed cut abruptly into the in progress stream of CBSN, the network’s 24 hour streaming news service.

At least some of the issues appeared to be related to alternate broadcasting setups due to COVID-19, anchor Norah O’Donnell noted in an Instagram post.

CBS News moved “Evening News” to Washington, D.C. last year and many of the technical operations for the broadcast followed.

Like all major broadcast networks, CBS has backup options in place in the event of an issue such as this, including in geographically disparate locations, but those could have been affected by the stepped down New York operations due to coronavirus.

Broadcasters often have simple bare bones “flash” or “emergency” setups with a single camera that can be used to produce newscasts in the event of a systemic failure.

It’s not immediately clear if CBS had such an option available or if it attempted to use it but had issues there as well.

For example, when NBC News lost power during the NYC blackout in 2019, the network continued broadcasting with only audio as crews scrambled to relocate the broadcast to one of the network’s insert studios — but the end result was fairly seamless.

Most viewers outside of the eastern and central time zone markets affected did see a full broadcast, which the network linked to on social media.

That version also aired overnight in select markets as part of a practice used by all three networks to boost ratings and fill early morning hours.