CBS Navigates Power Loss at US Open

As senior engineer for CBS Sports, Nick Muro is accustomed to staying calm under pressure. The veteran broadcast engineer has kept CBS Sports on the air during decades of sports productions, through a laundry list of weather conditions, venue challenges, and last-minute changes, and last weekend’s US Open production was no different.

After four consecutive days of 90-degree temperatures without a hiccup, the CBS technical crew hoped that the worst was behind them at the Open. Once the weather became more pleasant, however, the compound began to heat up. On Saturday morning, the local Con Edison substation feeding two of the power transformers at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center failed.

“That left only two feeders coming in, which was just enough to cover the entire facility,” Muro explains. “Had one more of those gone out, the entire facility would have shut down, not just the TV compound.”

Inside the television compound, CBS had enough generators to back up all the power required to run the television equipment but not the entirety of the Tennis Center.

“Their contingency was, lose power and evacuate. So, if they had lost power, they would have had to evacuate the entire area,” Muro says. “Con Ed brought in a bunch of generators, and they had generators standing by. But, had it gone down, it would have taken at least an hour to get everything back up, so we were holding on.”

While holding on, CBS set about lightening its power load as much as possible.

“In between outer-court matches, we powered trucks down and brought them over to a generator,” Muro says. “Little by little, we got all of the outer-court trucks on generators. Then we started shutting down air-conditioners. Luckily, it wasn’t too hot that day.”

In the end, neither television viewers at home nor fans on the grounds had any inkling that the power situation was so dire. CBS, along with ESPN, Tennis Channel, and all the international broadcasters, remained on the air without a hitch as Muro stepped up to navigate yet another remote-production challenge.

“I like twists and wrinkles like that whole power issue,” he smiles. “I thrive in that think-on-your-feet environment. It keeps the job interesting.”