PALM DESERT (CBSLA.com) — Tony Verna, a longtime television producer and director credited with inventing instant replay, died Sunday in Palm Desert. He was 81.
Verna was born Nov. 26, 1933, in Philadelphia, and it was from that city that his invention made its debut during the CBS broadcast of the Army-Navy game in 1963. Prior to the first play that was shown via instant replay, he told announcer Lindsey Nelson to remind the audience that “This is not live! Ladies and gentlemen, Army has not scored again.”
Verna began his career at age 19 as a director at WCAU-TV in Philadelphia, He went on to work as a sports director for CBS Television and later was an independent producer and director of sports and entertainment programs.
By the time Verna received the Director’s Guild of America’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995, he had directed the broadcast of the Kentucky Derby 12 times and five Super Bowls, in addition to NBA and NHL championships, the Goodwill Games and Olympics, and Grand Prix racing in France.
Sports made up just a portion of his work. Verna also directed “The Mike Douglas Show” when it was broadcast from Moscow, and the “World Circus” from London. He worked for two years in Las Vegas as president of Caesar’s Palace Productions, and also directed interviews with Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
His other credits include a 1985 Christmas special with Mother Teresa, co-production and direction of the broadcast of “Live Aid” that same year, and Pope John Paul II’s “Prayer for World Peace” telecast, which was viewed live by over 1 billion people.
Verna was also the author of five books and holds multiple patents for smartphone technology.
Verna is survived by his wife of 46 years, Carol, as well daughters Tracy Soiseth and Jenny Axlerod, both of Los Angeles, and son Eric, of Palm Desert, and three grandchildren.