Netflix To Announce $1 Million Prize Winner

Online DVD rental pioneer Netflix said today it will announce the winner of its $1 million Netflix Award Prize on Monday, Sept. 21, in New York.

Netflixheader_prize.jpgThe ceremony will cap a three-year competition between teams of mathematicians and software engineers to improve Netflix’s movie recommendation system by 10 percent.

Nearly 40,000 teams vied for the prize to be awarded later this month, but as’s Eliot Van Buskirk writes, all but a pair have no hope.

[N]ot much separates the two top teams. Teams Bellkor (AT&T Research), Big Chaos and Pragmatic Theory combined to form Bellkor’s Pragmatic Chaos, the first team to qualify for the prize on June 26 with a 10.05 percent improvement over Netflix’s existing algorithm. This triggered a 30-day window in which other teams were allowed to try to catch up — and indeed, a team called The Ensemble, made up of lower-ranked contestants, submitted a higher score of 10.10 percent as time ran out — a hair better than Bellkor’s Pragmatic Chaos’ final score of 10.09 percent.

If you’re a stats freak, here’s the leaderboard.

Netflix co-founder and CEO Reed Hastings will speak at the Sept. 21 ceremony, along with Netflix Chief Product Officer Neil Hunt and winners of the $1 million Netflix prize.

The company also said it will unveil details of a $1 million “sequel” to the contest (to be called Netflix Prize 2), but’s Van Buskirk rooted out some details from a message Hunt left on the Netflix Prize site’s community board:

“The next contest will be a shorter, time-limited race, with grand prizes for the best results at 6 and 18 months.”