NBCUniversal and Comcast….They Can Hack It.

By Sanjay Macwan, Senior Vice President & Chief Technology Officer, NBCUniversal Media Labs.



When I was in college I once slogged for more than 24 hours with hardly any sleep to code a final software-programming project. The work was intense, but in the end, productive and gratifying and it remains one of my most enduring experiences.


Fast forward 21 years and now I see companies that are very much in the spirit of that high-energy, pretty sleepless, college coding binge. Big and small, across many industries they are embracing the culture of hackathons.  A specific business invites developers, entrepreneurs, students, and sometimes even consumers to come inside, to experiment with its unique assets and to hack together some innovative corporate solutions. Imagine a brilliant designer, who idolizes Steve Jobs, marrying his creativity to a top-notch software developer with the speed of Edward Scissorhands, who is in turn guided by an entrepreneur aiming to be the next Mark Zuckerberg. Hackathons serve to bring such diverse skill sets together, for a limited time, to build and showcase possibilities and solutions that otherwise may not be readily evident.


With such spirit in mind, NBCUniversal and Comcast are hosting a joint hackathon on June 21-22 (2014). We are looking at more than 150 top developers and entrepreneurs to help us harness the speed and agility of talented engineers. In part, this is a tool for not only mining for “out of the box” ideas, but, almost more importantly, it’s an opportunity to recruit startups and developer talent to help us solve technology issues that we are already anticipating. Recent advances – specifically in consumer electronics, mobility, and cloud technologies – have fueled significant disruption throughout the content ecosystem. Consumption of content by any means – particularly video content – continues to grow dramatically, with consumers eager for any content, any time, any where, on any device.


Across the industry, the need to meet TV Everywhere requirements, while still monetizing and investing in richer content, is testing existing technology platforms and business models. Events like this weekend’s hackathon help us to stay nimble and deliver innovative solutions to our advertisers and viewers in the shortest amount of time. Even by hackathon standards, our event is unique for the media industry given its size and scope. Where else can innovators simultaneously access content from NBCUniversal (including TV, Film, and Digital); Comcast’s powerful cloud-based content distribution platform; and consumer experience and monetization platforms along with rich sets of APIs (application programmable interfaces) from participating partners?  In essence, participants will have the opportunity to innovate with the entire content value chain. More specifically, the participants will have access to content, products and technology from CNBC, USA, Syfy, NBCNews.com, Universal Pictures, TV Everywhere, Telemundo, Universal Home Entertainment, NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations, Fandango, E! Online, Esquire Network, and Comcast Cable. Other partners bringing their capabilities to the hackathon include Gracenote, Beamly, thePlatform, Radius Networks, Spredfast/Mass Relevance, Jawbone, and angelhack. In part, our hope is that this lineup will inspire innovators to marry rich content with cutting edge technology to show how social trending can be exploited in marketing a new film, or how to personalize a content using geo-location, or how to make most relevant sports news and stats directly available to a smart watch. 




Add to that the opportunity to present and demonstrate new creations in front of top media executives and venture capitalists at 30 Rock’s iconic Studio 8H.  And there will be  prizes including ptickets to Universal Orlando Theme Parks, a USA network prize pack, and more. The grand prize winning team will also have an opportunity to incubate their ideas in collaboration with NBCUniversal Media Labs and Comcast Ventures. 


I will close with this final thought. Key technology ecosystems – of content, consumer electronics, web platforms, advertising and search, c-commerce (e-commerce of content), mobile distribution, and social networks – are evolving on a daily basis. I like to describe it as a never before seen “mutation.” I urge all innovators interested in exploiting these mutations to take part in this and future hackathons and, in doing so, to help create even richer experiences for consumers.




As Senior Vice President & Chief Technology Officer, Media Labs, NBCUniversal, Sanjay Macwan leads Media Labs, an organization within NBCUniversal dedicated to working with academic research groups, start-up companies, and the global venture capital community to accelerate technology innovations and to help develop new business models for the company’s content delivery businesses Prior to joining NBCUniversal, Mr. Macwan served as Vice President, AT&T Chief Technology Office and headed the CTO Technology Council., emerging services, and security. He first joined AT&T Labs in 1992 as a software developer.




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