The creation of NFL Films in the early 1960s no doubt played a significant role in the growth in popularity of the National Football League. The man behind the idea of NFL Films was Ed Sabol.
Sabol, an aspiring filmmaker, was selling overcoats for his father-in-law in Philadelphia when at age 45 he hatched the idea of forming Blair Productions, a film company he named after his daughter. In 1962 Sabol contacted National Football League Commissioner Pete Rozelle with an offer to double the $1,500 bid for the rights to film the 1962 NFL Championship Game between the New York Giants and Green Bay Packers. Rozelle accepted and Sabol’s film company was off and rolling.
From the very start, Sabol incorporated a unique creative angle inspired by his background in the drama society at Ohio State and a brief stint on Broadway. Rather than use a single camera located high in the stadium that day, Sabol added a sideline camera to catch the intensity of the players. Blair Productions continued to shoot NFL action for the next two years before Sabol convinced NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle and the 14 team owners that they needed their own motion picture company. With that, NFL Films was born. Sabol served as the President of NFL Films until 1985 when he turned over the role to his son Steve. The senior Sabol continued to serve as the Chairman of NFL Films through his retirement in 1995.
During his tenure, NFL Films won 52 Emmy Awards.
With Ed Sabol’s vision, NFL Films has revolutionized the manner in which sports are presented on camera. Many firsts in film were introduced under his leadership ranging from the first use of a microphone on coaches, referees and players; use of a reverse-angle replay; adding popular music to footage; and the ever popular bloopers videos.
NFL Films has continually adapted to new technology while maintaining its dramatic storytelling technique. The company began producing weekly NFL highlight shows in the late 1960s, introduced the first sports home video in 1980, and today remains at the forefront of the film industry. In 2002, the company moved into a 200,000-square-football facility that includes productions studios and massive film library.
Ed Sabol’s innovations have clearly changed the way that fans watch football.
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