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Everyone knows Netflix, it is usually the first choice for a Saturday night in or a mid-week film to break up the week. The platform currently offers somewhere around 5,000 movies ( for UK viewers, spanning a host of genres depending on your mood and taste.

However, in an increasingly competitive market Netflix is finding it is losing ground to its rivals!

The Market Place

For instance, Amazon Prime pumped in the region of $5 billion into content bids and original content production in 2017 and alongside the Prime subscription model, viewers also can make the most of online renting or buying of content on Amazon, mainly when certain titles aren't available on their Prime service, a feature which Netflix doesn't have the luxury of offering ( Even the likes of Facebook and YouTube are investing considerable sums of money into their video content to get a slice of the action.

All of this got me thinking, how could Qlik be used to demonstrate a real-world business issue like Netflix, in one of my University engagements? Maybe a hackathon?

The question I got asked most - What is a hackathon?

From Google's dictionary, it describes a hackathon as "An event, typically lasting several days, in which many people meet to engage in collaborative computer programming."

This isn't a new concept, hackathons occur every day but are largely for the programmers and computer scientists among us and they aim to answer a real-world problem, whether with data or development of an application.

Accenture and the University of Bath

I took this idea to Dr Güneş Erdoğan, Director of Studies MSc in Business Analytics at the University of Bath, who Qlik's Academic Program has a long-standing relationship of working alongside in teaching students about data analytics. Güneş jumped at the opportunity to offer this kind of session to his students and right away got to work on the specifics of the session.

Further to the engaging with Bath, I reached out to Accenture, who has supported hackathons alongside Qlik in the past. Accenture hire a significant number of students from Bath, with engagement through career services, societies and events. Accenture hire students with all different strengths, one area they may look for is students who have a mindset geared towards data and business. A hackathon is a great way for them to increase their presence amongst the student base and maybe find those students who might not have considered careers in analytics.

Hackathon or Data Challenge? That is the question.

The students in Business Analytics' classes aren't computer scientists, these are our future analysts, consultants and business leaders with knowledge in various areas of data analytics, statistics and commercial business and we opened the session up further by reaching out to courses in Information Systems and the MBA degrees. This expanded the knowledge and experience of the students in the session and matches closer to a real-world business team.

However, calling this a hackathon might have scared some students away that weren't adept at computer science topics, so we decided to call this a Data Challenge and the students would be using Qlik Sense and other tools if they wished, to answer;

A. "What Netflix's 2018 release library should look like?"


B. "What original content should they produce?"

Quick stats!

Some quick information about what we provided

  • Two sessions; an introduction to Qlik Sense in a 3-hour workshop to learn data loading, modelling and visualisation in Qlik Sense and a 6 hour data challenge where the students would build their applications around the Netflix brief.
  • Student signed up the Qlik Academic Program and were set tasks to complete certain Qlik Continuous Classroom modules to assist in their application build.
  • Student numbers; Around 40 students attended both sessions and were split in groups of 3/4.
  • Administrators; Not including myself there were 3 Accenture analysts and 2 enterprise architects from Qlik supporting across the 2 sessions.
  • Data; We provided the students data on movies, actors, box office stats, viewership of movies and more from the last 30 years. They were strongly advised to find further information online to add context to their applications.
  • Presentation; Each student had 5 minutes to present their findings all of which must be backed up with data.
  • Judging; The panel of judges made up from a mixture of attendees Accenture and Qlik. Criteria was based on; Quality of dashboard, data model, presentation structure, how closely the question was answered and reasoning of original Netflix content idea.


The teams of student came up with a wide variety of ideas from looking at trends like super hero films to line up next to big releases next year. Others looked at box office revenue as an indication to popularity and advised on original content around those figures, some threw out our idea and decided to use a simplified algorithm that Netflix use to decide their listings, to varying degrees of success.

The winners, the nicely titled 'Powerful 3 C's' choose to look at movie selections not in the top 3 choices, with actors who were well known but maybe under rated in their performances but would require a smaller salary in production. They also discovered that despite being the coldest month and everyone spending all their money through Christmas, January historically has very little new releases...who knew? So, based their findings on a January release.