The iTV Doctor Is In! To Hack, or Not to Hack...

...that is the question--Whether 'tis Nobler in the mind to suffer The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Upheaval Or to take Arms against a Sea of Competitors (with sincere apologies to Wm. Shakespeare). 
We all know it's not your grandfather's, or even your father's cable industry anymore. We have an enormously successful and profitable subscription television business model that we are in the process of carefully throwing overboard in favor of a variety of direct-to-consumer strategies. And we have a LOT to figure out. 
In the spirit of innovation, the NCTA, along with Comcast/NBCUniversal, Tribune Media and Gracenote, is sponsoring a Hackathon at this year's Cable Show, now dubbed INTX (Internet & Television Expo). INTXHACK runs May 2nd and 3rd, with more than a hundred developers expected to participate, in competition for cash, prizes and food (the fuel of all Hackathons). 
It's a 24-hour hackathon competition taking place at famed Chicago tech incubator, 1871, in conjunction with INTX (May 5th-7th) in Chicago. INTXHACK challenges developers to create apps-from-scratch using the latest API's, tools, data and content from leading tech, media and entertainment companies. 
To join those young hackers, the organizers are looking for business partners to provide content, platforms, data or API's needed to help developers respond with innovative Internet and television solutions. Anybody who wants to participate should contact NCTA Industry Affairs at (202) 222-2430 or to become an INTXHACK partner. Interested developers can sign up at 
Inasmuch as I am neither an engineer or a hacker (although my industry friends will confirm my ability to break virtually any application by acting as a typical clueless consumer), I thought I'd reach out to some of this year's participating companies to see why they are participating in INTXHACK. 

Jim MacDonald, VP Sales & Marketing for UXP Systems (who recently announced investments from John Malone and John Risley) responded first: 
"UXP Systems is participating in the INTX hackathon for a number of reasons. First of all, it's a great opportunity to let really smart hackers get creative with our MINT software platform, and to approach next-generation TV concepts without any specific rules imposed on them. Our software enables operators to deliver next-generation, personalized entertainment experiences for individual users, but key to our hack challenge will be for them to blend multiple cloud services with the TV experience and get creative with the increased screen real estate of 4K/UHD TV's to produce the ultimate personalized entertainment environment. 
"Secondly, the hackathon environment provides an excellent venue to demonstrate what is possible in a very short period of time with our MINT platform. We already have a large ecosystem of cloud services integrated to MINT, so we are really looking forward to seeing what the hackers are able to come up with to make next-generation TV and entertainment services totally personalized for every member of the viewing household. Tying this hackathon together with our existing presence at the INTX 2015 show is yet another way for operators, content providers, and our partners to learn more about our exciting MINT platform." 
From Gracenote, we hear from Graham McKenna, VP of Marketing and Communications: 
"Hackathons like INTXHack put Gracenote data and technologies into the hands of developers to rethink, reimagine and reinvent every aspect of TV, music and other forms of digital entertainment. In some cases, developers have commercialized their products using our API's at hackathons and in other cases they simply use the event to meet new people and have fun experimenting with new concepts. Either way, we look forward to seeing the fresh thinking and ideas that come out of the INTXHack."
Zane Vella, Watchwith CEO and Founder, told us: 
"Watchwith is participating in the INTXHACK because we are consistently blown away by the creative, surprising, and innovative ways the participants choose to use the Watchwith API. At the last hackathon we had a team use Watchwith scene-level metadata to drive a 3D VR Battlestar Galactica world! Not only did they take home a cash prize, but those young hackers went on to be hired by a leading innovation lab, and expanded our own thinking of how Watchwith can be used commercially. Hackathons of this caliber are also a great way for our team to connect with the broader community and have fun." 
And finally, let's close with the experience of a couple hackers who turned their Hackathon experience (at the 2014 TV of Tomorrow Show in San Francisco) into a business. I wrote about TVDuffle in February: 
Here's what TV Duffle's Serena Xu, Mick Darling and Francesco Rossi had to say about "hacking": 
"We think Hackathons are the most genuine way of networking. It's about demonstrating skills rather than adding fluff while talking about previous experiences. It is great to find potential developers to hire and it is extremely valuable for students or recent graduates, since their previous experiences do not necessarily fully reflect their capabilities yet."
Serena was making a career transition from 3D animation into tech: "With transferable skills that weren't obvious from my resume, each hackathon gave me a full 48 hours to demonstrate my skills." 
TVDuffle CTO Francesco Rossi found exactly what he was looking for when he went: "To meet great people to undertake a great project with, which is what happened at TVOT 2014. We now have some great partnerships and have launched two apps for iOS in the last month." 
INTXHACK--Good Fun, Good Business! See you in Chicago!
North America