Sports Asset Management Committee Profile: Grant Nodine, VP of Technology, NHL

By Juliane Pettorossi, Editorial Assistant, SVG

Earlier this year, SVG launched the Sports Asset Management (SAM) Committee, dedicated to advancing the sports-media industry’s content-management and -storage capabilities and tools. This group, comprising asset-management leaders from each of the major U.S. professional leagues and college-sports entities, spearheaded last month’s Sports Asset Management Forum and will contribute in-depth content to the upcoming online SVG Sports Asset Management Playbook (to be unveiled later this year). SVG is profiling the careers of all eight SAM Committee members.

Before Grant Nodine ventured into the sports business, he studied political science and media studies at Hunter College in New York. Despite being a hockey fan from a very young age, he never exactly pictured himself working professionally in sports. Even so, a successful and somewhat unexpected career has brought him to the post of VP of technology for the NHL, where he has been for 14 years.

Grant Nodine, NHL, VP, Technology

Grant Nodine, NHL, VP, Technology

In college, Nodine studied mainly political philosophy and in-studio television production. After graduation, he went to work for Bexel, delivering video equipment in the early ’90s, and subsequently moved on to Editel as graphics coordinator. At Editel, a commercial-postproduction house run by Unitel Video, Nodine and his team did a lot of commercial work with agency clients. The original Sprint Pin Drop was an animation produced in their facility.

“That’s where I really first got involved in managing workstation technology,” he says. “I was the systems librarian there.”

Nodine also performed such tasks as clearing cache files and nagging animators and compositors to keep their disk space clean to maintain free space. He operated Sprint’s DRUMS system for transmitting dailies to remote collaborators with a shared whiteboard, a task that grew into the graphics coordinator job.

“That’s where I kind of became a technology person as opposed to somebody who wanted to be a production person,” he says. “I really learned my way around Unix and also how to support a work group and deal with mundane tasks like failed hard drives, connectivity, and backups.”

Editel introduced Nodine to Web publishing. During the early ’90s, Websites rarely had database backends. Instead, they were manually maintained page by page.

“It was kind of like, Here’s a page, here’s a page, and they’re all linked together,” says Nodine. “Now somebody has to manage it.”

When Editel closed its doors, he went to work for Web-development company Neographic. After less than a year, he and a few colleagues formed their own Web-development company, Mercury Seven.

“I was the lead technologist there and worked with a lot of our clients, including Rodale Press, Madison Square Garden, and a number of others,” he says.

About two years later, after tripling the size of the company in terms of employees and moving to brand-new offices, Mercury Seven was sold to a larger agency, Xceed Performance Group.

In 1999, Gregg Grossman, a recruiter, called Nodine and said, “Do you know anybody interested in a job at NHL?” Grossman, whom Nodine had previously helped fill some positions, had gotten in the habit of calling him every couple of months and asking if he knew anyone interested in certain job openings. This one stood out to Nodine.

He joined the NHL team initially to manage the Web properties and systems. Over time, his role has expanded to lead technologist. Currently, Nodine architects all systems infrastructure — whether for league/team sites, venue technology, file-based distribution, file-based acquisition, asset management, editing, or studio operations.

For Nodine, it’s challenging to find an economical way to distribute multiple live game feeds to fans and internal stakeholders and also to ingest those files into an asset-management system on a timely basis for the editorial operation.

“The pace of innovation required to continue to improve your product in the sports business is probably much faster than in a lot of other media businesses,” he says, “And, as a result, it’s an ongoing challenge to be able to take and repurpose content or turn it around for multiplatform distribution.”

Although the direction of the technology industry is a big thing to forecast, Nodine understands that the cost of providing the technology complement necessary to successfully broadcast or stream from a given venue to end users’ devices and homes keeps growing. He believes that, as the incremental cost of bandwidth in venues becomes cheaper, the decrease in unit bandwidth costs vs. the expense of staying on the cutting edge is going to lead to a fairly massive increase in the number of remotely produced events.

“There’s going to be a big tension there because there will probably be a lot of members of your audience that are going to be incredibly resistive to that change,” he says, “But I think, over time, the economics of backhauling raw feeds is going to start to trump the economics of actually pulling a truck into a venue and powering it up and staffing it, etc.”

When Nodine looks back on influential figures in his life that have prepared him to take on these challenges, he recalls his chemistry teacher at Church Farm School, Bill Bailer: “He really fueled my desire for experimentation and innovation.”

Nodine has always enjoyed attending professional hockey games, but, as an NHL employee, he prefers to watch hockey and football on television and is a four-sport Philly fan.