Comcast/NBCU Hack into New Products

First-ever hackathon developed ideas for new products and services for nine-plus divisions
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Following a June 21 and June 22 hackathon, a variety of NBCUniversal and Comcast entities are now working on some of the ideas that came out of the event, reports Sanjay Macwan, senior VP and CTO, NBCUniversal Media Labs.

New ideas at the event, which was their first ever Hackathon, generated product concepts for CNBC, USA, NBCNews.com, Universal Pictures, NBCU’s TV Everywhere team, Telemundo, Universal Home Entertainment, NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations and Comcast Cable.

Macwan noted that the rapid pace of technology changes make it imperative that large media companies speed up the pace of innovation and forge closer ties to tech companies and startups. As part of that effort, NBCU opened a new facility earlier this year in New Jersey.

It includes the new NBCUniversal Media Labs, which is charged with developing and creating new technologies and services for the company. Part of the purpose of the hackathon was designed to open up the Media Labs to developers to help create new ideas.

“We need to be very nimble and agile as a company and with the rapid evolution of technology we need to be able to tap into the best minds for software development,” Macwan explains. “The hackathon is a great vehicle for that.”

The event was organized by AngleHack and brought together about 150 people. They formed about 23 teams that created 26 prototypes designed to address business and technology challenges developed by various NBCUniversal and Comcast division. The teams developed their ideas, working through the day and night on Saturday until noon on Sunday, when they were ferried into 30 Rock to present their idea.

A panel of judges from NBCU and Comcast as well as outside entrepreneurs and venture capitalists judged the results. They awarded one grand prize as well as winners in 12 categories.

The grand prize winner and the winner of the NBC News challenge was “Thumbnail,” which lets users receive custom news stories based on their activity and timeframe. The product also incorporates a “do” button that allows users to take action on the news by, for example, contributing to a cause. Members of this winning team hailed from the RAPP agency.

Other winning ideas included “Trend TV,” which delivers short form videos tailored to the consumer and ideas for improving electronic sell through digital marketing, stock tickers and the Comcast X1 platform.

“We are now working to further incubate all the winning ideas,” Macwan says.

He adds that they are planning to take the hackathons on the road to other locations, including Los Angeles, Silicon Valley, London, Orlando and Philadelphia.

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