Instagram launches long-form video app

IGTV will showcase influencer videos, including a cooking show from the most-followed creator on the platform, Lele Pons.

It’s been just over two years since Instagram extended the maximum length of its native videos from 15 seconds to one full minute.

Now, it’s going even more long-form.

The Facebook-owned photo and video platform has introduced IGTV, a new, separate app that will showcase videos of up to one hour in length, uploaded by the users. Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom announced the introduction at Vidcon in Los Angeles June 20. He identified it as “different from the typical mobile video experience.”

The video app (separate from the native Instagram app) is optimized for mobile, with videos all appearing in a full-screen, vertical format. For viewers, video begins playing the second they open the app, although there is a direct link to browse videos in the lower-right corner. Users can watch creators that they already follow on Instagram while also discovering others. It’s available globally, and some high-profile Instagram users such as Lele Pons (the most-followed creator on the platform with 25 million followers) and Selena Gomez have already begun producing content for the app. For her part, Pons announced during the event and via Twitter that she would be creating a cooking show for IGTV. While numerous professional creators are debuting professionally directed and produced content, all Instagram users can join and upload videos.

The introduction certainly plays into an increasing appetite for mobile entertainment; just yesterday, GroupM’s latest round of ad spend and consumption trends showed that Canadians are watching significantly less TV (Canadians age 18 to 24 in particular are watching six hours per week less than they were in 2013). Meanwhile, social media use continues to climb (it is estimated that 59% of Canadians will use social networks this year). Mobile ad spend is expected to come to $5.3 billion this year, representing nearly 74% of all digital ad spend in Canada.

In addition, a posting on Instagram’s business blog cited a 2016 study from BCG, “The Future of Television”, to assert that “younger audiences are spending more time with amateur content creators and less time with professionals.” That same post also cited a 2017 White Paper from Cisco Visual Networking, which claims that by 2021, “mobile video will account for 78% of total mobile data traffic.”

The creator-led model for IGTV could leave professional producers to continue trying their luck with Instagram’s parent company Facebook via the Facebook Watch service. Still, at least one cable network has announced plans for utilizing the new product to share content. National Geographic has announced that once IGTV goes live, it will share a vertically adapted version of the final episode of its One Strange Rock miniseries from within the Instagram app, for free.

According to its Instagram account, Nat Geo has 88.7 million followers on the platform. The company says working with IGTV will allow it to expose a huge audience to its long-form content, while also generating new business and sponsorship opportunities across its most profitable social channel.

But for all Instagram’s popularity, there’s no shortage of platforms – and competition – in the online video space. YouTube has been the preeminent video platform for more than a decade, but Facebook has scaled up its video efforts in the last several years as well. Instagram and Snapchat have squared off in the short-form “stories” space, while Twitter has paired with numerous traditional television partners to bring premium live video to the platform.

Could the introduction of a new platform – with a name as big as Instagram behind it – prompt a sway in creators and advertisers?

Unlike YouTube, IGTV doesn’t have banner or pre-roll ads, although the company has said it is looking into opportunities to help creators make a living off the platform.

Jonathan Davids, co-founder and CEO of influencer firm Influicity, said there’s no doubt that users will see creators flocking to IGTV, and that they’ll soon start pairing with brands for deals.

“Influencers tend to be early adopters of new platforms,” he told Playback sister publication, Media in Canada. “The adoption should be fast. Most influencers have day jobs and need to work hard to become relevant and stay relevant. A new medium is a great way to do that.”

He predicts that it has long-term staying power, citing the quick rise of Instagram Stories. “[Instagram] has a solid track record of delivering positive experiences for both creators and users. As an alternative to YouTube, IGTV has a lot of potential.”

Indeed, Instagram’s number of users is quickly approaching YouTube’s. The platform announced during the IGTV launch that there are now one billion users of Instagram globally.

From Media in Canada, with files from Realscreen