How Most of Super Bowl I Was Recovered

Tales of Recovery examines how specific television programs once thought missing or lost have been recovered. Often, these recoveries were not well-publicized or took place so long ago that they themselves have been forgotten.

About The First Big Game

The very first Super Bowl — officially known as the AFL-NFL World Championship Game — pitted the National Football League’s Green Bay Packers against the American Football League’s Kansas City Chiefs. It was played on Sunday, January 15th, 1967 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. It was a historic game for many reasons and television viewers had two options for watching it: both CBS and NBC broadcast the game nationally. Fans in Los Angeles were out of luck, though, because it was blacked out locally.

Pooled pregame coverage started on the two networks at 3:30PM Eastern, with kick-off set for 4PM. Commentators on CBS were Jack Whitaker and Ray Scott (play-by-play), Frank Gifford (analysis/color) and Pat Summerall (pregame and postgame coverage). NBC’s commentators were Curt Gowdy (play-by-play), Paul Christman (analysis/color) and Charlie Jones (pregame and postgame coverage). The postgame coverage was also pooled.

The Green Bay Packers won the football game 35-10 and CBS the ratings game, with a 22.6 Nielsen rating to NBC’s 18.5.

The game was broadcast live and both networks recorded the full game in color on 2″ quadruplex videotape. In Los Angeles, where the live broadcast had been blacked out, CBS affiliate KNXT replayed the game from 12AM-4AM on Monday, January 16th while NBC affiliate KNBC replayed the game later that afternoon.

At some point after that, both networks either destroyed or recorded over their videotapes and for decades, Super Bowl I was missing and considered one of the holy grails of missing television. Audio of the television broadcast(s) survived, however, as did sideline footage shot by NFL Films.

Recovery & Restoration

Flash forward to 2005, when a man brought a pair of 2″ quadruplex videotapes to the New York City branch of the Paley Center for Media. One tape ran 94 minutes; the other 16. On the tapes was the bulk of the CBS broadcast of Super Bowl I, recorded from affiliate WDAU-TV in Scranton, PA by the man’s father, who apparently had access to videotape equipment where he worked.

Missing was the half-time show and much of the third quarter, as well as some of the commentary between plays. There was also damage to the videotapes. The Paley Center undertook a restoration of the game, using the videotapes, footage from NFL Films and audio of the CBS broadcast.

News of the recovery didn’t become public until February 2011, when The Wall Street Journal published an article about the find, which revealed there copyright issues regarding the videotapes. The NFL has claimed ownership of the broadcast itself and while the Paley Center was allowed to keep a copy of the game, it cannot show it without permission from the owner of the videotapes, who reportedly would like to sell the tapes.

Ron Simon of The Paley Center was interviewed for the article and appeared in the following video at WSJ.com about the recovery:

Simon was also interviewed for the Sunday, February 6th, 2011 edition of The CBS Evening News and blogged about the recovery at the Paley Center’s website.

Super Bowl I Still Inaccessible

Since the news broke in February 2011, there have been few public updates about the status of Super Bowl I. CNN Money ran a story in February 2015 confirming that while The Paley Center has copies of the original videotapes as well as the restoration, it cannot show them to anyone. Furthermore, the NFL and the anonymous owner of the videotapes continue to be unable to come to any sort of financial arrangement.

In January 2016, NFL Network began promoting what it called “Super Bowl I – The Lost Game,” raising hopes that the CBS game footage would finally see the light of day. Instead, the special 50th anniversary re-broadcast on January 15th consisted of NFL Films footage and audio from NBC Radio coverage. The New York Times published an article in February 2016 revealing the identify of the man who owns the tapes.

To date, portions of the CBS broadcast of the game remain missing as does the entire NBC broadcast.

References:

Simon, Ron. “First Super Bowl Broadcast Found!” The Paley Center for Media. 7 Feb. 2011.
Roth, David and Jared Diamond. “Found at Last: A Tape of the First Super Bowl.” The Wall Street Journal. 5 Feb. 2011.
“They’re still playing The Super Bowl.” Broadcasting. 27 Feb. 1967: 27.
“Who took the Super Bowl CPM title?” Broadcasting. 13 Feb. 1967: 46.

Revised February 2nd, 2016


4 Comments

  • Andrew says:

    Great article and I’ve read a few of your other blog posts lately too. Thanks for the interesting blog and for saving the obscure history of television!

  • Bobby says:

    Boy, I would love to see someone come forward with a complete recording of the NBC broadcast of Super Bowl 1 and have it easily made available and screw over that miser with the CBS recording. That would show him for being so stingy.

    • Geoff says:

      The way I see it, it’s the NFL that’s being stingy. The man has the only known copy of the game and they lowball him, and then get all self-righteous with their copyright issues? Geez. Pay him whatever it’s worth and let the rest of us have an opportunity to see the game. It’s not as if the league can pick up a copy on Ebay.

  • Phil R. Gries says:

    It should be noted that on Saturday, April 8, 1967, CBS re-broadcast the complete Super Bowl 1 game, preserved on 2″ Quad Video Tape, when during an AFTRA strike Canadian Unions refused to broadcast the originally scheduled TV broadcast of the Stanley Cup Semi Final National League Playoff game between the New York Rangers and Montreal Canadians. To fill the time slot from !:30 pm to 4:00 pm EST, the re-broadcast of SUPER BOWL 1 was again televised for the final time.

Leave a Comment