Friends in Need


It was "the imperfect storm," said Dan Modisett, vice president and general manager of NBC affiliate WLBT-TV Jackson, Miss., and it almost blew away one of the biggest ratings nights of the year. An auto accident on the street in front of the station knocked out power to the station at 5:25 p.m. Central Time Thursday afternoon.

Modisett says the car hit at "the only place that there was a vulnerability in our redundancies. It took down both the switching stations that we could take power from."

With only two hours until the Friends clip show and three until the finale, the station looked to be in serious trouble. Modisett impressed upon the power company the importance of getting back on the air, however, and despite an estimate of midnight, three hours later, at 8:15, the station was back on the air. "They were all working like crazy and watching their watches," said Modisett.

WLBT wasn't back up in time to air the clip show (which began at 7 p.m., Central), or the first 15 minutes of the hour finale, but both, in their entirety, will be re-run/run at 10:30 Sunday night, according to Modisett.

The station also found out who its friends were during its time of crisis. The local Time Warner Cable system came to the rescue for its customers, finding an NBC feed that it got permission to feed directly, enabling its subs to see the finale in its entirety. It just so happens that WLBT's chief engineer, Curtis McKnight, and the cable system's top engineer, Sandy McKnight, are brothers.

But there was more than filial duty in play in Jackson. The engineer at competitor Media General's WJTV also stopped by to offer whatever help he could.

Even so, Modisett said, "I'm sure our competitors were pretty happy that they didn't have to go up against all of the juggernaut."