The launch of military strikes against Afghanistan on Sunday saw major television networks drop scheduled programming to follow breaking news for the second time in a month, shifting, delaying and cancelling ad spots in the process.

All networks were forced to undertake significant reshuffling at the last minute. CBS was hit by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences’ decision to postpone the Emmy Awards ceremony again. Having already seen the event, originally scheduled for September 16, moved once, the network is hopeful most advertisers will stick with the broadcast if the ceremony is eventually held.

Meanwhile, ABC’s eleventh-hour decision to replace a screening of Doctor Dolittle with news prompted the cancellation of ads destined for the children’s film and urgent calls to agency executives to ask they wanted spots during coverage of military strikes. Nine advertisers agreed.

CNN switched to uninterrupted news coverage for several hours, displacing scheduled ads. “We’ve already made up most of the commercial time or will do so this week,” said spokesman Robert Romano, “It’s as the news dictates. As necessary, we will return to uninterrupted coverage.”

“There’s a lot of uncertainty,” said one analyst at Credit Suisse First Boston. “The networks are working with advertisers to gauge the level of spending they're comfortable with. The advertisers are coming back, but the question is, to what degree?”

News source: New York Times