Surely you’ve seen it by now? That little sunset-coloured circle in the top right hand corner of your Instagram app? Sometimes, it even seeps into a sunset-coloured banner across the top of the app, enticing you to watch videos from an account you follow?
This, our friends, is Instagram Television. IGTV was launched last week (after quite a bit of speculation) in what many tech commentators have called a direct grab on YouTube’s audience with a healthy dose of Snapchat’s best features and a looming threat for streaming sites like Netflix. Oh how far we have come from the humble days of ‘gramming sepia-toned food photos…
With this new branchout, Instagram – known for its high-quality imagery, high engagement and high population of social media influencers – extended its one minute video clip limit. Now, users can upload up to one hour long vertical format videos through Instagram or the standalone IGTV app. Instagram’s evolution beyond simply sharing and filtering photos is embodied in this latest, sophisticated move. Again, how far we have come from ‘gramming sepia-tones food photos…
IGTV is a move that mirrors the evolution of mobile devices, telecommunication networks, and cameras – as well as the shift towards on-demand video viewing instead of traditional television. While Forbes described it as “a mobile TV platform that takes elements from YouTube, Snapchat and other platforms and puts them all in one place”, Instagram’s chief executive Kevin Systrom said IGTV is “for watching long-form videos from your favorite creators.”
As Techcrunch explains, “Viewers will be able to swipe through a variety of longer-form videos, or swipe up to visit a Browse tab of personally recommended videos, popular videos, creators they’re following and the option to continue watching previously started videos. Users will also get callouts from the IGTV button alerting them to new content.
“IGTV will also let creators develop Instagram Channels full of their different videos that people can subscribe to. Creators will be able to put links in the description of their videos to drive traffic elsewhere.” Currently ad-less, Systrom says ads will come as a way for creators to monetise their content – and with 1 billion global users and skyrocketing share prices, this has got to be a tempting offer for these creators.
If all of these features sound familiar to you, you won’t be the first to draw comparisons to pretty much all of YouTube, along with Snap’s Discover section and the episode length of most of Netflix and the likes’ television shows. At Forbes, the verdict on IGTV was: “The real loser here is YouTube. If Instagram gets creators over to IGTV with the right gloves and money it’ll cause YouTube a lot of headaches in the short and long term. Creators that are currently annoyed with the frequent changes happening on YouTube. Equally, if Instagram snags original series content eyeballs with IGTV, Netflix and Hulu will need to respond.”
Techcruch says: “YouTube may always have a wider breadth of content, but through curation of creators and publishers’ video content, Instagram could become the reliable place to watch something great on the small screen.” At the launch, Systrom said IGTV came about as a solution to “clunky and unnatural” mobile video and a lack of filtering to promote “the best videos, not just ALL the videos”.
So perhaps IGTV is the solution to providing the best mobile videos, like how OG Instagram filtered users’ best photos from ALL their photos – we know you remember those 200+ Facebook O Week photo albums…
When you add in the flop of Facebook’s Watch feature, Instagram’s 1 billion-plus monthly users and its only-increasing popularity, we agree with Forbes when they say: “IGTV app has some serious rocket fuel attached and a hungry beast behind it who needs more space to put ads. A powerful combination that, with the right content mix and onboarding strategy, could see IGTV become a disruptive force in less than 12 months should Facebook decided to pull the content lever and integrate Facebook Watch content and do further deals in the space.”
However, Wired also raised a very valid point about how Instagram will be able to handle issues like moderation across the new, longer, format. “If IGTV does become as popular as Instagram bets it will be, then the company may very well have to consider what happens when people use the app not just for cooking tutorials and cats, but for much more controversial content. And if it has any question about how that works, it could look to YouTube. Or, even its own parent company, Facebook.”
At Mosh, we think this is a fair criticism given Instagram’s issues with nipple censorship and Facebook’s issues with fake news and the Trump election. We also think IGTV will be huge with influencers, and a valuable opportunity for even more – and more valuable – collaboration with brands and businesses.
With the freedom of time and ability to appeal to new and wider audiences, we predict we will see higher quality, more strategic, and more creative video content as influencers and brands test the waters of this huge new feature.