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How the first TV hackfest solved a problem common to us all

The first TV hackfest solved a problem common to us all. When you’ve missed your favourite programme or an important game and are eagerly awaiting watching it on catch-up you do everything you can to avoid hearing the results — from turning the TV and radio off to silencing your friends. Yet with social media so pervasive in our lives comes the inevitable – that one of your friends or contacts gives the game away on Facebook or Twitter before you’ve even had a chance to put your feet up.

Well thanks to the first television hackathon, Hackfest.tv, held in London in October 2012, a solution was devised after a team from UK based broadcasting giant ITV created So Don’t Tell Me. The suspense maintaining application helps to stop spoilers on social media by allowing automatic blocking of content that gives away such details – highlighting them as spoiler alerts before the viewer gets a chance to see them. The judges were so impressed with the concept they crowned them the overall Hackfest Champ at the event.

The award was one of four made at the first hackathon dedicated to the television industry and held in London in October 2012. The TV hackfest event, which is now run twice a year at Apps World in the UK and USA, recognises that the sector is set for huge change in the coming years with the way we watch and interact with our TVs changing beyond recognition and television viewing no longer simply a static experience.

The first Hackfest.tv event brought together 100 developers, creatives, coders and entrepreneurs for a marathon 48 hour session of hacking and creation to build prototype solutions or ideas that could help the TV industry overcome some of the challenges it currently faces.

There were a number of objectives set – from building future video entertainment distribution formats to multi-screen delivery of content. With more than 100 APIs and SDKs supplied by the technology companies along with specific briefs from the production companies, brands and agencies at the event, there was plenty for the developers to get their teeth into.

The awards were divided into four categories with cash and product prizes for the winners followed by the chance to showcase their work to London based media technology venture capitalists.

As well as the Hackfest Champ award the team behind So Don’t Tell Me – comprising Mahdi Shariff, Philip Aberneithy, Rhys Sharrem and Albert Figuera — were also awarded the best commercial product concept award. “It’s a simple solution with commercial viability,” explained Shariff, who said the concept could be sold directly to the consumer, as an added functionality for social media platforms or to the content providers themselves.

Meanwhile Tank Top TV, a partnership between Liz Rice and Phil Pearl, were recognised for the best design (technically or creatively)  award for their second screen companion app which provides trailers to movies that are played on the big screen whilst the user is viewing details of the movie on the second screen.

And in true cyberborg style We Make Awesome sh.it, a team of hackers made up of Adam Howard, Paul King and Syd Lawrence, won the most innovative award for solutions such as Wink Magic which allows you to send screenshots of a movie you are watching to your phone simply by wearing a mind sensing headset, winking at the screen and tapping your phone.

The way we watch TV is changing fast. With hackathons such as these dedicated to the industry that trend is set to continue.