A spokesman for CBS said yesterday that "about 200" telephone callers complained to the network Sunday for going off the air before the playoff was shown in the Bing Crosby National Pro-Am golf tournament.
Bill Brendle, associate director of press information for CBS, insisted "this was not a Heidi situation."
He was referring to NBC going off the air in 1968 to show "Heidi" on television before a highly exciting Oakland Raiders-New York Jets football game was finished.
The Jets went ahead. 32-29, with about 65 seconds remaining, but the Raiders scored two touchdowns and won, 43-32. The network faced a storm of protest the next day.
"NBC had decided the game was over (for all intents and purposes) when it went off the air," Brendle said. "We (CBS) knew we had what looked like a three-man tie at 6:55 p.m.
"We made a decision to get off the air at 7 p.m. and let '60 Minutes' and 'Rocky' go on."
Asked who made the decision, Brendle said, "There were many decisions made. We had commitments to news programs and we had a lot of money tied up in 'Rocky.' It was the first time the film had been shown on TV.
"If we had shown all the golf, it would have taken 15 minutes to start the telecast of the playoff and another 35 to 40 minutes to finish, another hour. We had already lost our early news shows. Nobody got local news (at 6:30 p.m.). The golf ended about 7:50. We did it all live on the West Coast, beginning at 1:30 p.m. Pacific time. We decided to show a delayed tape of the playoff in the East.
"The golf didn't start in the East until 4:30 p.m. If we had shown all the golf in the East it would have pushed back '60 Minutes' (the highly-rated magazine show) until an 8 p.m. start and 'Rocky' to a 9 p.m. start. We were fearful of losing our second news program in one night (at 11:30 p.m.), if the golf had gone beyond 7 p.m."
The networks have been counterprogramming with highly competitive attractions in prime time in the race for ratings.
"It wasn't an easy decision," Brendle said of the overall revision of programs. The network showed the golf playoff on tape beginning at 11:30 p.m. That conflicted with a scheduled network movie.
In Washington, WDVM-TV-9 canceled its "Sportsbreak" program, that ordinarily airs from 11:30 to 11:45, because of the golf playoff showing.