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R.I.P. Tony Verna, inventor of the instant replay

Tony Verna, the inventor of instant reply for live sports, has died. He was 81 and had been battling leukemia.

Verna invented the technique while he was working for CBS in 1963, when he developed a method for cueing tape right up to a play he wanted to immediately re-air. The network first used it during the Army-Navy game on December 7, 1963, causing mass confusion with viewers. Announcer Lindsey Nelson even had to warn viewers that the clip they were about to see “is not live,” and that “Army did not score again.”


Instant replay undoubtedly changed the way viewers watched and interpreted sporting events; Entertainment Weekly named the innovation one of television’s 100 greatest in 1999, with Sports Illustrated saying in 2004 that replay constituted a “tipping point” in sports culture.

Verna also produced or directed five Super Bowls, the 1960 Rome Olympics, the 1984 Summer Olympics, 12 Kentucky Derbies, and Live Aid. He also worked closely with the Vatican on productions like Pope John Paul II’s 1986 TV special A Prayer For World Peace, which reached a billion viewers worldwide.

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