SVG10 Q&A: Sports-Asset Management and Storage Comes of Age

In 2006, when the Sports Video Group was founded, sports organizations were just beginning to develop media-asset–management (MAM) systems, and storage/archive technology was light-years behind where it is today in speed and capacity. As multiplatform consumption and demand for highlights have skyrocketed over the past decade, asset-management systems have become integral to sports-media operations looking to serve fans and monetize content. In advance of the 2016 Sports Asset Management and Storage (SAMS) Forum on July 27 in New York City, NHL SVP of Technology Grant Nodine, who was an early pioneer in the MAM space and now chairs SVG’s SAMS Committee, takes a look back at how far we’ve come.

CLICK HERE to register now for the SAMS Forum.


NHL’s Grant Nodine chairs SVG’s SAMS Committee.

In 2006, what were the primary challenges and tech developments when it came to asset management and storage?
I think the industry was in its infancy. Most asset-management systems were primarily still ways to find things that are on tape. Clearly, there’s been a sea change on that front. There has also been a sea change in accessibility, because, in many cases, there was no proxy video for assets. Retrieval times of a given clip after identifying the parent asset could be quite long, so the systems lacked the immediacy that we have today. I think, in a lot of ways, asset-management systems of old were more meant to store shop lists than they were to actually catalog access. They were basically there to make our logs searchable, rather an attempt to coalesce all this metadata about the asset.

When did sports-media operations begin moving toward digitizing their libraries?
I think the digitize-everything movement has been a fairly recent thing, over the last two or three years. Frankly, I think the expense of doing it and the perceived value of doing it really weren’t obvious to a lot of people until then. Today, though, I honestly find it very hard to believe that anybody’s going to try to hold onto tape libraries longer than the next decade. They may be in a closet somewhere as a backup to a backup, but I don’t see people wanting to access it as a primary means of retrieving an asset.

Is there a specific technological leap forward for MAM in this sector over the past decade that really sticks out to you?
Obviously, there have been major improvements in terms of access speed. In 2006, we had a very specialized piece of storage hardware to be able to support multiple edit stations, real-time access, and playback of media assets. Now you can buy SSD storage to play back media assets off of for a penny of what you paid for it back then. Obviously, the fabrics associated with that storage on the SAN side and the network side grew up a lot and gained a lot of performance as well.

Did top media executives see the potential value of developing a MAM system back then?
I don’t think so, no. Given a few exceptions, I think they just needed us to create these products, and, basically, we evolved these systems to serve that particular request rather than as a means to an end for creating products. So it was more reactive than proactive, and I think that scale has slid more to the proactive side. Until OTT delivery started to become an inevitability rather than a possibility, I don’t think that the executives realized there was going to be an audience or a way to monetize this content. There is no question they see that value today, though.

What about the next 10 years? How do you foresee MAM and storage technology and workflows progressing?
I think you’re going to see long-term and backup assets getting pushed out of the tape robots and into the cloud. I also think you’re going see a revolution on the user-interface front for a lot of these asset-management systems, which is overdue. There is going to be a push to be able to integrate more functionality into a lot of other applications. RESTful APIs for asset-management systems and things like that will become more and more important — not only point-and-click user interfaces but obviously programmatic user interfaces as well.

Ultimately, it just comes down to, we’re going to continue to have the challenges we’ve always had — which is basically bigger files, more assets — and that’s going require us to start looking at the cloud and next-generation technologies.

Note: An abridged version of this SVG10 Q&A ran in the Spring Edition of the SVG SportsTech Journal. CLICK HERE for the digital version.

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