Sat. Jun 22nd, 2024

NBCUniversal technology hub leans heavily into Orlando themes

By admin Jun4,2024

When the Golf Channel left Orlando in 2019, it left an empty space, literally.

Since then, NBCUniversal has converted those studios and other spaces on Golf Channel Drive near Sand Lake and Kirkman roads into a sports and entertainment technology hub. The building recently finished a refurbishment that goes all-in on shout-outs to the City Beautiful.

Six businesses, divided into two groups, are part of the hub. Under the Sports Next umbrella are GolfNow, an online tee time service; GolfPass, a membership to improve golf games; and SportsEngine, a youth sports-team management technology.

On the Fandango side are the namesake movie ticketing service, its at-home streaming option called Fandango at Home, and Rotten Tomatoes, a site populated with entertainment reviews.

“We are connecting people to their passion,” Will McIntosh, president of NBC Sports Next and Fandango, said Wednesday during a tour of their facilities. “That passion could be movies with Fandango. That passion could be golf. That passion could be your kids that play recreational sports.”

Of the 600 employees in the Orlando hub, “50% of those jobs are tech jobs, either software engineering graphic designers or technical support people,” McIntosh said.

Also in the building are Telemundo studios and a call center for Peacock, NBC’s streaming service.

Some of these entities were in the building even in the Golf Channel era, which began in Orlando in 1995.

“I think the number of team members in this building that were focused on these businesses had surpassed that of the Golf Channel itself. So these were always going to be the future growth engine, not only for the business itself but for the number of people that were going to be working in them,” McIntosh said.

“And because golf is still such a big part of what we do and so much of the business of golf is headquartered in the state of Florida, it totally made sense for us to not only keep a presence here but continue to grow that presence,” he said.

Universal’s big businesses are organized by theme parks, films, news and media, which includes the sports concerns, McIntosh said. Golf Channel moved to Stamford, Connecticut, now home base for NBC Sports.

A finishing design touch to the building was revealed near its entrance this week: an art installment that features Orlando landmarks inside large NBCU letters. Central Florida sights such as Orlando City Hall, the T.G. Lee dairy, Kennedy Space Center, and Orlando Eye at Icon Park are incorporated. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer helped unveil the piece Wednesday.

The remodeling includes multiple murals by local artists Helen Miranda and Chris Stanley, whose works are scene inside and on the outside of buildings across Central Florida.

The Orlando theming extends into the hub’s conference rooms, named for neighborhoods and landmarks, from Lake Eola to Boxi Park in Lake Nona to Bay Hill. Each space has big photos showcasing the corresponding areas.

Golf remains part of the decor, with Arnold Palmer’s golf cart on display as well as a virtual driving range. Palmer was one of the founders of Golf Channel.

Most dramatic is a new 300-seat, high-ceiled meeting space that’s tiered, stadium-style. It’s dubbed the Bounce House, a homage to UCF’s football stadium that is known to shake when the crowd gets going. This area is one of the Golf Channel broadcasting sets but reimagined.

Jerramy Hainline, executive vice president for NBC Sports Next & Fandango, recalled being in the building during the pandemic with just two other people. He was one of the architects behind the changes, including the Bounce House.

“That was not being looked upon favorably coming out of COVID, putting 300 people together next to one another,” Hainline said. “But we had confidence that we had a culture of people that wanted to be in the office. They wanted to be together. So as we started designing the space, we thought about it in a different way.”

The demographics of the hub’s workers played a role, McIntosh said.

“I bet the average age of this employee population as compared to the Comcast average is maybe 10 years younger. You know, a lot of college grads first jobs, a lot of young professionals building a career,” he said. “If you think about those people, they want the social connection.”

dbevil@orlandosentinel.com

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By admin

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