Quantifying the Value of Better Recommendations

by Neil Hunt (Netflix, USA), sponsored by Google

Moderator: Martin Ester

Recommender systems that are used to help users discover interesting content — for example: music or video — seek to improve the efficiency with which users engage with the content. How should we think about the value delivered? Is it about finding hidden gems that might otherwise not be discovered, or about shortening the time browsing to find something acceptable, or improving the appropriateness of a title within a specific search time, or something else? And how much value is delivered – are sophisticated systems worth the cost? Are real-time recommendations more useful than off-line precomputed recommendations, and if so, how much more is worth spending?

Dr. Neil Hunt is the Chief Product Officer of Netflix, which offers the world’s largest subscription service streaming TV shows and movies over the Internet. Neil’s team is responsible for the design and technology behind the Netflix service – the website, mobile, and Smart-TV experiences where members subscribe, pick movies and TV shows using personalized recommendations, search, and social suggestions, and stream them to any of over 1,000 different kinds of viewing experiences. The team is also responsible for the delivery pipeline, spanning encoding, storing, and serving tens of billions of hours of streamed content annually to more than 44 million Netflix members in 41 countries.

In addition to using data to help users discover great content to watch on Netflix, Neil is interested in personalized medicine, including the quest to pool data from cancer patients in a “Cancer Commons” — where big data techniques promise to deliver personalized treatment suggestions , by uncovering shared characteristics across cancer types and individual mutations to identifying how drugs designed for one cancer type may help an apparently different disease.

Prior to joining Netflix in 1999, Dr. Hunt worked from 1991 in various engineering and product roles at Pure Software and its successors Pure Atria and Rational Software building software testing products. Before that, Neil was engaged in research in computer vision and image processing at the University of Aberdeen, at Schlumberger Palo Alto Research Labs and Teleos Research.

Dr. Hunt holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Aberdeen, U.K. and a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Durham, U.K.

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