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Video services

'Top 3' Hackers Take Comcast/NBCU Prize

With their second hackathon in the books, Comcast and Comcast-owned NBCUniversal have awarded the grand prize for their latest coding contest to the developers behind a new application called "Top 3 I Want To See."

The winning app development team, which calls itself Squiggle, created Top 3 as a "simple shareable representation of a consumer's top movie choices, while allowing for an integrated ticket purchase experience." The demo also won in the Fandango Challenge category. Additional winners (details below) picked up prizes for challenges by Universal Pictures Digital Distribution, the NBCUniversal News Group, Universal Pictures Digital Marketing, Universal Cable Productions/Syfy, and Telemundo.

The Comcast/NBCU hackathon, based on the theme "New Forms of Storytelling Driven by Technology," brought in 300 registrants for the weekend event in Universal City, Calif. Teams had 24 hours to create cross-platform applications using content from such popular TV shows as The Voice and Battlestar Galactica, as well as the latest movie in the Fast and the Furious franchise. Participants also had access to existing products and technology from Comcast-owned networks, and to APIs from partners Unity, Apigee, Cinemacraft, Spredfast, Telescope, Microsoft, Beamly, Watchwith, thePlatform, Interlude, and Gracenote. Judges awarded up to $25,000 in cash and prizes, including a grand prize of $15,000 plus a chance to pitch NBCU Media Labs executives on prototype development of the winning application.

Sure looks like fun.
Sure looks like fun.

This weekend's hackathon came less than six months after the inaugural Comcast/NBCU coding fest in New York City. The winners of the first hackathon went on to do a roadshow within NBC Universal , presenting their customized news-delivery application Thumbnail to executives around the company. According to NBCU SVP and CTO of NBCU Media Labs Sanjay Macwan, a product based on Thumbnail will go live in 2015. The development team has signed a formal business contract, and NBCU will own the intellectual property behind Thumbnail going forward. (See Comcast/NBCU Hackathon Produces First Winners .)


Want to know more about the latest video services trends? Check out our dedicated video services content channel here on Light Reading.


The rise of the hackathon within Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) marks a major cultural change in the organization, which not too long ago was still relying heavily on outside software companies to build its TV user interface. The hackathons are partly a bid to recruit new developers (Comcast/NBCU hired three after the New York event), and partly a way to foster new agile development processes. Comcast CTO Tony Werner has made no secret of the fact that he believes agile development is critical to the cable industry's future success. At the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo in September, Werner emphasized the importance of developing products and services more quickly if cable companies want to compete with Internet video rivals. (See Cable Forecast: Cloudy With a Chance of DevOps.)

Meanwhile, Macwan noted in an interview that there's been a lot of excitement in the developer community around the new hackathons, and that the company ultimately had to shut down registrations for the Universal City hackathon because of overwhelming response. "One thing I learned is that there is tremendous appetite for developers to really do something interesting with the video content space," said Macwan. "This seems to be a fairly unique approach that we have taken."

A partial list of winners from the latest hackathon was published by Comcast/NBCU. They include:

    Grand Prize/Fandango Challenge Winner: "Top 3 I Want To See"
    "Top 3 I Want To See" creates a shareable representation of a consumer's favorite movies, while allowing for an integrated ticket-purchase experience.

    NBC Entertainment, The Voice Challenge Winner: "Busy Bits"
    "Busy Bits" helps keep viewers engaged in programs with a second-screen experience. By aggregating data for continuous delivery to mobile devices -- highlighting episodes, artists and coaches -- viewers can get additional, relevant content in real-time.

    Universal Pictures Digital Distribution Challenge Winner: "Puzzle Lot"
    "Puzzle Lot" uses the casual gaming experience to let movie fans unlock content for upcoming movies by solving puzzles, helping create "buzz" for new movies.

    NBCUniversal News Group Challenge Winner: "Real Action"
    "Real Action" allows for instantaneous social action for any disaster response and includes push notifications across all NBC News applications.

    Universal Pictures Digital Marketing Challenge Winner: "Mooffi"
    "Mooffi" allows storytelling to become a socially engaging experience, transforming linear content into live interactive and immersive experiences.

    Universal Cable Productions/Syfy Challenge Winner: "Inside The Galactica"
    "Inside The Galactica" uses Oculus Rift and virtual reality to pull viewers into the Battlestar Galactica story, allowing friends to share virtual experiences.

    Telemundo Challenge Winner: "Catch Novella"
    "Catch Novella" allows viewers to quickly catch up on storylines by using a simple timeline technology.

— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading

thebulk 11/19/2014 | 11:56:34 AM
Re: Great event No doubt that Comcast got the biggest bang for their buck. 
kq4ym 11/18/2014 | 12:52:56 PM
Re: Great event It would seem everyone was ain a win-win situation. Lots of interesting apps, and Comcast got publicity and the advantage of developing interest from developers. I'd say Comcast actually got most of the benefits here, while the participants had lots of fun and recognition of their coding skills.
craigleddy 11/17/2014 | 3:34:37 PM
Join the 'Launchathon' On Thursday morning I'm hosting a unique event, supported by cable execs, industry associations and Light Reading, that is more of a 'launchathon' than a 'hackathon.' It's our 5th Interactive Launch Competition, where MBA teams present go-to-market strategies and marketing plans for emerging video services, including cloud DVR, next-generation TV Everywhere, wireless video gateways and OTT on cable.

We've got top judges (Comcast, TWC, Bright House, Hearst, Discovery), top schools (Columbia, Harvard, MIT, NYU, Wharton), an Innovations Panel of experts and a Networking Breakfast! It takes place Nov 20 at NY University in Manhattan. Details and registration: http://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/event?oeidk=a07e9l6g21b94370afa&llr=hrpwbcjab

      
thebulk 11/17/2014 | 1:07:42 PM
Great event This sounds like it was an amazing event with a great focus. I have been to several hackathons now and I always find that they produce excelent results and fuel some outstanding ideas. 
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