The Best Tools for the Job: IGN on empowering developers, and why they picked Zencoder

Featuring properties such as IGN.com, AskMen and GameSpy, IGN Entertainment engages one of the largest concentrations of video games and entertainment fans on the Internet, with 49.5 million monthly unique users.

A critical tool for engaging users is video. IGN is number one in their category with 8.5MM video viewers and 76.4MM video streams on their network of sites alone (not including YouTube or other syndication outlets).  With a commitment to growing video distribution to new platforms and devices, IGN undertook a project to revamp their internal content management system (CMS), including their transcoding solution.

“The best tools for the job.”

The goal of the overhaul was to bring agility to the video operations and architect a system that would give IGN the scale and flexibility to grow their video offering, and adapt to new consumer trends.  Leading the project was Manish Pandit, Director of Engineering.

When sourcing technology IGN looks carefully at the business case to determine the right approach, and IGN has a very developer-driven culture, so finding the right solution is paramount.  As a result, IGN uses a mix of open-source, commercial and custom-built applications. “Our focus at IGN is to serve our clients and improve their online experience.  We approach technology by finding the very best solution for a given problem and are not bound to a specific architecture or language.  This choice empowers our developers to select the best tools for the job.”

IGN expects the amount of content they create to double every year, so it was critical to find a solution that scaled to meet the rapid expansion of their video operations. In addition to a growing baseline of content, the solution would have to accommodate spikes in production centered around major events like the annual E3 gaming conference.

Flexibility was also key.  Pandit and his team assessed services from several online video platforms and CMS providers, including Brightcove’s Video Cloud, but quickly realized that these didn’t provide the perfect fit.  “IGN has use cases that are not standard”, he said.  “We wanted a flexible solution built on an open API-based platform, which is easier to integrate with IGN’s existing setup.  Video is part and parcel of our website infrastructure, and we needed technology that we could adapt and mix in.”  Pandit didn’t consider building or buying a solution that they would host.  ”We want to innovate and create content, not deal with infrastructure,” he said.

IGN on Zencoder

IGN chose Zencoder to provide video transcoding services.  Working with the Zencoder API was easy, and an advantage of an API driven service was the fast time to market.  “It took about three days to go from the beginning of the engineering process to transcoding our first video as part of the production video workflow”, said Pandit.

The elasticity and scale of the Zencoder service was tested shortly after integration.  During E3 2012 Zencoder scaled seamlessly to create the thousands of output files necessary to reach their audience.  “Zencoder is fast, and saves our editors a ton of time so they can produce great videos instead of struggling with encoding”, commented Pandit.  “This was our first E3 with Zencoder, and there were no worries when our video transcoding load spiked 10x.”

IGN was also able to greatly simplify their workflow.  Editors simply create mezzanine content and save it in the CMS and Zencoder takes care of the rest.  The CMS makes the API calls to Zencoder, Zencoder encodes the files and sends notifications to IGN’s API when files are ready to publish.

IGN on the Future

IGN plans to expand to more platforms as well as adding user generated content to their existing properties. Recognizing the importance of mobile and other platforms, Pandit remarked that “the audience won’t come to you, you have to go to audience.”

In Zencoder, IGN found a technology partner that will help them meet the challenge of new platforms and devices.  “It makes everything easier to outsource all of that”, said Pandit.  “Zencoder scales as we need it.”

“Zencoder is like IGN – a lean and agile company, but they focus on one very hard thing — video encoding —  and they do it best.”

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