U.S. networks cut in as Ukraine is attacked

After Russian leader Vladimir Putin announced a “special military operation” against Ukraine early in the morning local time, U.S. networks were well into primetime programming.

ABC managed to get the news out first among the major U.S. broadcast networks, cutting into “A Million Little Things” at about 10:11 p.m. eastern with David Muir anchoring. The network had two key maps illustrating the region and specific actions taken against various areas.

CBS News was next at about 10:14 p.m. with Norah O’Donnell anchoring and using the new special report graphics it debuted Feb. 22, 2022.

For this report, the video wall graphic behind O’Donnell did not feature a feed of the White House, but rather appeared to be a “generic” version of the loop with white and 3D elements in the space previously occupied by the video.

NBC interrupted “Chicago P.D.” at about 10:27 p.m. with Tom Llamas anchoring. This notably meant that Lester Holt was the only big three network anchor to not appear during the initial coverage of the attack.

All three networks were airing new episodes of their primetime shows and, with the Olympics just wrapping up Feb. 20, 2022, schedules were starting to return to normal, especially on NBC, which pre-empts all primetime programming during the Games. 

Stations then aired the rest of the primetime schedule as planned, delaying everything past that point by about 20 to 30 minutes in select markets.

On cable, MSNBC, CNN and Fox all stuck with their normal schedules and talent, with each of them presenting the news under their respective show branding.

The story would continue to dominate cable broadcasts overnight and then network and cable shows come the following morning.