Instagram is ready to compete head-on with YouTube. Today at a flashy event in San Francisco, the company announced it will begin allowing users to upload videos up to one hour in length, up from the previous one-minute limit. And to house the new longer-form videos from content creators and the general public, Instagram is launching IGTV. Accessible from a button inside the Instagram homescreen, as well as a standalone app, IGTV will spotlight popular videos from Instagram celebrities.
The launch confirms TechCrunch’s scoops over the past month outlining the features and potential of IGTV that we said would arrive today, following the WSJ’s report that Instagram would offer videos up to an hour in length.
“It’s time for video to move forward, and evolve,” said Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom onstage at the event. “IGTV is for watching long-from videos from your favorite creators.”
Instagram’s press event just started, but the Instagram Business blog has already been updated with all the details of today’s launch.
IGTV will let anyone be a creator, not just big-name celebrities. People will be able to upload vertical videos through Instagram’s app or the web. Everyone except smaller and new accounts will be able to upload hour-long videos immediately, with that option expanding to everyone eventually. The IGTV will be available globally on iOS and Android sometime today, as well as in the Instagram app. “We made it a dedicated app so you can tap on it and enjoy video without all the distraction,” Systrom explained.
In IGTV’s dedicated app or its in-Instagram experience, 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.
“There’s no ads in IGTV today,” says Systrom, but he says it’s “obviously a very reasonable place [for ads] to end up.” He explained that since creators are investing a lot of time into IGTV videos, he wants to make that sustainable by offering them a way to monetize in the future. Instagram isn’t paying any creators directly for IGTV videos either, like Facebook did to jump-start its flopped Facebook Watch video hub.With 1 billion users on Instagram, IGTV could be popular with creators not only trying to earn money but grow their audience. Instagram is expected to build out a monetization option for IGTV creators, potentially including ad revenue shares. The big user base could also attract advertisers. eMarketer already expects Instagram to earn $5.48 billion in U.S. ad revenue in 2018. Facebook shareholders loved the sound of more premium ad inventory that businesses crave as they shift spend away from television. Facebook’s share price is up over 2.2 percent today to nearly $202.
Instagram has evolved far beyond the initial simplicity of just filtering and sharing photos. When it launched, mobile networks, screens and cameras weren’t ready for longer-form video, and neither were users. As more families cut the cord or teens ignore television altogether, though, Instagram has an opportunity to become the TV of mobile. 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.