The name Tony Verna may not be familiar to you, but in television production circles, he’s very well-known as an innovative director and prolific producer. Known as the inventor of instant replay, Verna died Saturday at the age of 81.
In 1963 at the Army-Navy game, Verna was directing and called for a videotaped replay of an Army touchdown. Announcer Lindsey Nelson told viewers “This is not live! Ladies and gentlemen, Army did not score again!” Verna was looking to fill time in-between plays and wanted to find a way to highlight certain plays. He found it with instant replay.
As you’re aware, instant replay has become a regular staple of sports broadcasts. The technology has improved to the point where it’s used to review plays in all of the major sports and can be used to show various angles.
Verna was one of CBS’ top directors and went on to direct or produce five Super Bowls, the Rome, Montreal and Los Angeles Olympics, the Kentucky Derby and other events. He was tapped to help produce several global events including the Live Aid concerts in 1985, SportAid in 1986 and the Prayer for World Peace involving Pope John Paul II also in 1986.
CBS lead director Bob Fishman told Sports Video Group, “Tony was one of the great directors of [his] era, along with the late Sandy Grossman, Bob Dailey and Frank Chirkinian. Tony was a master at his craft and to be able to learn from him at such an early age was more than anyone could hope for.”
Verna may be remembered solely for instant replay, but in television production, he’s very well-known and will be missed by the industry.