Netflix to run second film-suggestion tech contest

Aug 11, 2009 By RACHEL METZ , AP Technology Writer

(AP) -- You might call it "Son of the Netflix Prize."

The DVD rental company has not yet announced a winner for its first $1 million challenge to improve its system of recommending movies that subscribers may enjoy, but it is already indicating there will be a sequel.

In a post on the Web forum set up for the current prize, Netflix Inc.'s chief product officer, Neil Hunt, said Netflix will announce specific details of a second contest in late September, when it divulges the winner of the first one.

The original contest was launched in 2006 to improve predictions on Netflix's site by at least 10 percent. The idea was to farm out valuable research to thousands of participants. More than 51,000 people in 186 countries took part.

Two teams - one called BellKor's Pragmatic Chaos, the other called The Ensemble - are now vying for the prize. The BellKor team submitted its solution first in late June, kicking off a 30-day period in which other contestants were able to enter their best work and try to beat the group's effort. The Ensemble submitted its solution in late July.

According to Netflix's online prize leaderboard, The Ensemble had improved predictions for what movies people will enjoy by 10.10 percent while BellKor had improved predictions by 10.09 percent. It is not clear yet which team will be declared the winner, though.

Hunt said Round Two will be a "big money contest with some new twists."

He did not specify how much money will be involved, but indicated the contest will be quicker, with the Alviso, Calif.-based company issuing prizes for the best entries after six months and 18 months. During the first contest, prizes were awarded for progress in 2007 and 2008.

"While the first contest has been remarkable, we think Netflix Prize 2 will be more challenging, more fun, and even more useful to the field," he wrote.

Netflix spokesman Steve Swasey said the posting last week was simply meant to alert potential participants that another contest is in the offing. Within an hour of its posting, he said, a couple dozen people responded with interest.

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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