Credit: John Paul Filo/CBS

Super Tuesday Like a Politics Super Bowl

Network news folks prep for hectic day/night

It isn’t Election Day, but it’s close. With a dozen states holding primaries March 1, it’s all in for the network news divisions. Every fresh election cycle means new technological bells and whistles, but CBS has one digital entity it feels gives it a real advantage: the CBSN streaming channel that launched late in 2014.

On March 1, Elaine Quijano anchors live coverage starting at 6 p.m., a half hour before Scott Pelley slides into the anchor chair on the big set, with assists from CBS This Morning co-hosts Norah O’Donnell and Charlie Rose and CBS News political director John Dickerson, among others.

CBSN is for the political junkies who want to consume the election stuff when the rest of the world is watching talk shows or primetime series. But it’s also an increasingly popular second screen, says Steve Capus, executive editor at CBS News, to supplement the TV coverage, for those who simply cannot get enough of Trump, Rubio, Cruz, Sanders and Clinton. And Kasich. And Carson. 

“It’s the first big election for CBSN, and they are a big part of what we do,” says Capus, who also executive produced CBS News’ debates in Des Moines (the Dems) and Greenville (the GOP). “CBSN emerges as a more important part of this division every single day.”

CBSN breaks from its own coverage to stream the network’s feed 10-11 p.m.  

A dozen states’ delegates are up for grabs March 1: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and Virginia. The nets across the dial are, of course, all in. NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt runs for an hour, and Holt anchors a 10 p.m. primetime special March 1 with Today co-anchor Savannah Guthrie and NBC News political director Chuck Todd.

(Sister net MSNBC suffered some fallout from the unseemly split with show host Melissa Harris-Perry, as detailed in the New York Times.)

On ABC, chief anchor George Stephanopoulos leads the coverage from the net’s Times Square set 10-11 p.m., joined by World News Tonight anchor David Muir, chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl, chief global affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz and others.

ABC News will also tap FiveThirtyEight founder Nate Silver for his statistical analysis acumen.

Fox News Channel has Bret Baier and Megyn Kelly at America’s Election Headquarters 6 p.m. to 1 a.m., with Eric Shawn and Heather Childers taking over hosting duties 1 a.m. to 4 a.m.

CNN kicks off coverage at 6 p.m. with the likes of Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper and Jake Tapper in Washington, and John King of course situated at the Magic Wall, and political director David Chalian analyzing the exit polls.

On a lighter note, even Smithsonian Channel is in on the fun, with a 14-hour marathon of Aerial America specials covering every state involved in the Super Tuesday mayhem. The shows are a flying tour of the nation’s landmarks. David Royle, executive VP of programming at Smithsonian Channel, says AA “rises above the political rhetoric and conflicts to remind viewers and voters alike of the rich history and many splendors of this great nation.”

Capus says viewer craving for election coverage is, like those Aerial America cameras, sky high. “You’ve got tens of millions of people tuning into the debates,” he says. “The interest level is at a peak right now.”