Tony Verna, Inventor of Instant Replay, Dead at 81

The veteran producer’s 1963 innovation for CBS changed sports broadcasting forever

Last Updated: January 19, 2015 @ 12:47 PM

(Updated on Jan. 19 at 12.45 pm PST with a statement from DGA president Paris Barclay.)

Tony Verna, the man who invented instant replay for CBS Sports television, died Sunday in Palm Desert, CBS reported. He was 81.

The veteran producer and director of television sports and entertainment specials died on the same day as his innovations were enjoyed by a national audience viewing the NFL Division Championships, with the winners of the two division games headed for the Super Bowl.

Verna’s hallmark was an ability to continually come up with advances in the use of cameras, program content and creative interplay. He used an old trick from his radio days to enable a football play to be instantly rebroadcast.

Instant replay was first used in the CBS broadcast of the 1963 Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia.

“By any measure, a career spent directing major sporting events like the Super Bowl and the Kentucky Derby would be accomplishment enough.  But Tony Verna’s legacy replays on television sets around the world every day,” said DGA President Paris Barclay upon learning of the passing of director and DGA Lifetime Achievement Award in Sports Direction recipient.  “With the creation of instant replay 50 years ago, Tony changed the future of televised sports, and sports direction, forever.  Our thoughts are with his family and friends.”

Tony Verna is credited with inventing instant replay, first deployed during the broadcast of the Army vs. Navy football game he directed for CBS Sports on December 7, 1963.  In recognition of his directorial accomplishments and contributions to the genre, the Directors Guild of America honored Verna with the Lifetime Achievement Award in Sports Direction in 1995.

Verna was born Nov. 26, 1933 in Philadelphia.

He began his career at 19 as a director at the fledgling WCAU-TV in Philadelphia. He went on to work as a sports director for CBS Television and later worked as an independent producer and director of sports and entertainment programs and specials.

His credits also include producing and directing Pope John Paul II’s TV special, “A Prayer for World Peace,” and the historic music special “Live Aid.”

Verna is survived by his wife Carol, daughters Tracy Soiseth and Jenny Axlerod, and son Eric, as well as three grandchildren. Information about a funeral service was not immediately released.