NetFlix gives $1 Million…just maybe created the next Big Thing?


For those following the Netflix competition it’s been pretty fascinating. Big money, tactical maneouvering, climax and let down, and guys so smart you’d think they worked in James Bond’s lab, it had it all. But alas, the contest is over and the winners are the worldwide based team of BellKor’s Pragmatic Chaos (they should win just for having such a cool name)!

Battling against time, expectations, and the forces of genious’ from around the world that joined forces to try and stop them Bellkor prevailed in what appears to be the measure that far too often separates the champion from second place; time!  It came down to the final hour with 20 minutes being worth $1 Million!

NYT has a great article detailing all the drama. Definitely worth a 5 minute read. For those unfamiliar with the contest, the challenge was to “come up with a recommendation software that could do a better job accurately predicting the movies customers would like than Netflix’s in-house software, Cinematch. To qualify for the prize, entries had to be at least 10 percent better than Cinematch.” Winner gets $1 Million.

What is really intriguing and exciting about the contest is not the fact that Netflix now has a kick-ass predictive engine, it’s what else such a powerful prediction capability could do. As the article suggests, why stop at movies when this could have an impact on almost anything – commerce, stocks, shopping, politics…wow.

I haven’t seen the guts of this great math but I’m willing to bet it’s not just your Amazon suggested books capability but much bigger. Privacy issues aside, whether the team at Bellkor is free to use their system for other purposes, or Ensemble can launch as their own start-up, there could be something big here.

Congrats to BellKor and Ensemble….hey guys, get in touch! 🙂