Netflix Prize Competition Comes to a Thrilling Conclusion

After a last-second buzzer beater put them in the front runner position for the Netflix Prize on Saturday, it appears as though "The Ensemble" has held off any late surges from other developers to take top honors in the competition.

The competition, which was kicked off by Netflix back in 2006 as a way to improve the accuracy of its movie recommendation algorithm, saw a flurry of activity in its final days between two development teams: The aforementioned Ensemble, and the previous leader, BellKor's Pragmatic Chaos.

Up until Saturday, BellKor's Pragmatic Chaos was the leader, with work that surpassed the contest's 10% barrier by .08%. Their 10.08% score, submitted one month ago, kicked off a 30-day countdown meant to allow other teams to turn in last-minute improvements of their own. On the second to last day, The Ensemble swooped in with a 10.09% score and an all-but-assured victory.

However, Bellkor, not to be outdone when the prize was seemingly already in their grasp, submitted a lightning quick 10.09% match to tie and presumably share the $1 million prize.

But it was not to be. Twenty minutes after the tying submission was submitted, The Ensemble (perhaps with a secret reserve?) submitted a 10.10% submission with four minutes to spare.

With the contest closed, this is what Netflix had to say:

Contest Closed

Thank you for your interest in the Netflix Prize.

We are delighted to report that, after almost three years and more than 43,000 entries from over 5,100 teams in over 185 countries, the Netflix Prize Contest stopped accepting entries on 2009-07-26 18:42:37 UTC. The closing of the contest is in accordance with the Rules — thirty (30) days after a submitted prediction set achieved the Grand Prize qualifying RMSE on the quiz subset.

Team registration, team updates and the dataset download are also closed. The Contest Forum and Leaderboard remain open.

Qualified entries will be evaluated as described in the Rules. We look forward to awarding the Grand Prize, which we expect to announce in a few weeks. However if a Grand Prize cannot be awarded because no submission can be verified by the judges, the Contest will reopen. We will make an announcement on the Forum after the Contest judges reach a decision.

Once the Grand Prize is awarded, the ratings for the qualifying set will be released and the combined training data and qualifying sets will become available upon request at the Machine Learning Archive at UC Irvine.

Thank you again for your interest in the Netflix Prize. Keep checking this site for updates in the coming weeks.

Congrats are in order to the quick-thinking Ensemble team. They played this one to perfection. [TechCrunch via Slashdot]