Sports Asset Management Committee Profile: Keith Horstman, VP, Digital Media Systems, NBA

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.

It was just a regular Sunday morning 17 years ago when Keith Horstman came across an advertisement in the New York Times that changed his career: an opening at the National Basketball Association caught his eye. With a “why not” attitude and a solid résumé, he applied, was offered the job, and has been working for the NBA ever since, currently as VP of digital media management systems.

Growing up in Staten Island, NY, Horstman dreamed of one day becoming a professional athlete, specifically in the NHL. In high school, he discovered an interest in technology, mainly thanks to a teacher who introduced him to programming and worked with him on developing systems.

While attending The College of Staten Island, he traded his newspaper-delivery job for one in the college’s Academic Administration Department, mainly working in IT and developing applications. He went on to earn his M.S. in computer science there and also worked for at the international nickel company INCO as a programmer analyst.

In 1993, with INCO closing its New York office, Horstman went to work for Bankers Trust as assistant treasurer and, after less than a year, followed his manager to Chase Manhattan. By 1996, he had found his way to the NBA, where he is now responsible for all the technology that runs the organization’s entertainment division.

“Some of my friends from high school — we all played hockey together — were like, ‘What are you doing? Why are you going to work for the NBA,’” he says. “It was a little bit of a joke for a while, but it’s been a lot of fun and a great company to work for.”

Although Horstman never picked up a basketball after elementary school, he was drawn to the job at NBA by the idea of integrating technology and the love for sports. When he first came into the job, his role was to help with the design of the Statistics system, which he found very intriguing.

“The Stats system was really the carrot in front of me at that moment in time,” he says.

Once his team started building the Stats system, the thought was immediately, Ok, how to we integrate video into this thing? “We had all this videotape in our archive that was underutilized,” he says. “That was the introduction to video and how it originated.”

However, the video aspect didn’t develop substantially until Horstman started doing design for NBA TV in Secaucus, NJ, and the company began to reap a benefit from the way the statistics were being designed and the immediacy in which live clips were able to air.

“Because we designed Stats the way we did, the data was already back here,” says Horstman. “All we had to do was align it, and everybody had a full definition of our content immediately.”

He believes that video content is going to continue to thrive and the integration and storage of new video formats is going to be a huge challenge for the industry.  “The files are going to get bigger and longer, and you’re going to need faster processors to create them.”

Along with the challenge of successfully integrating video into the content, Horstman and his team at NBA constantly deal with changes in every area. Since it is a cutting-edge environment, it is crucial to keep up with everything that’s evolving daily.

“Everything from distribution to changing data formats, our Stats feed alone has changed drastically over the years, let alone video formats and other technologies,” he points out. “It’s all been very difficult, but it’s also the most fun part.”

When Horstman started his job with NBA, he wasn’t the biggest fan of basketball. When he happened to catch a game on TV, he wouldn’t focus on the guys scoring points on the floor. Instead, he zoomed in on the referee, stats system, and graphics — everything else going on. “I probably couldn’t even tell you the score of the game,” he says.

Even so, he still watched some of the game and was ultimately “sucked in” to becoming a fan. “Now I am a fan of the game itself and especially how these athletes are able to do the things that they do.”

From a career standpoint, Horstman respects NBA Senior Executive VP Steve Hellmuth for his understanding of technology and how it is used in their environment.

From an overall life perspective, Horstman’s main mentor has been his father, Kenneth. “My dad taught my three siblings and me the value of hard work and commitment,” he says, “And my best advice to give is that hard work always pays off.”

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