It's not TV, it's Instagram: New app built for longer video

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Famed Pomeranian Jiffpom can now share videos up to an hour long on IGTV.
Famed Pomeranian Jiffpom can now share videos up to an hour long on IGTV. Credit: Instagram

Instagram is taking on TV and YouTube with a new property called IGTV, where videos can run up to an hour long.

Instagram revealed the video platform in San Francisco on Wednesday, at an event attended by web celebrities like gamer Tyler Blevins, also known as Ninja, and Lele Pons, who has 25 million followers. Creators take their followers from Instagram to their new IGTV channels.

"The magical part about IGTV is that a lot of these creators don't have to start from scratch," says Kevin Systrom, Instagram CEO, at a press event following the release of the app.

For weeks, creators had early access to IGTV so that when it launched on Wednesday there already was a library of videos, Systrom says. The videos run vertically, because that's the way most people hold their phones, the company says.

Instagram decided to build a standalone property, because longer videos are not something people typically want on the main app, where videos are limited to 60 seconds.

"When people browse through the feed they don't want to stop and watch a 10-minute video," Systrom says. Instead they can seek out the longer videos in IGTV, where they can run for up to an hour.

Systrom expects that eventually there will be no time limits on videos in IGTV. For now, there are some restrictions on what accounts will have privileges to record for an hour. Smaller accounts will only be given 10-minute video limits, but Instagram did not specify the exact criteria for what qualifies an account for the longer video option.

There also are no ads in IGTV, yet. However, brands are able to create their own channels just like any other person with an Instagram account.

Instagram also announced that it now has a billion monthly active users, up from 800 million in September.

Instagram is following its parent company into the longer-form video space. Last year, Facebook launched Watch, a section inside the social network for shows from professional media companies and individual creators. Those shows run with commercial breaks and Facebook splits money with the creators.

The Instagram TV app is not just for stars like Pons with 25 million followers, either. Karen Leung expects to try it for an account she runs devoted to her 5-year-old Shiba Inu named Nacho, which has 7,000 followers.

"We have a very engaged community who tune into our Stories," Leung says, referring to the vertical video format already available on the main Instagram app. "With Stories we're sharing so much of our life events, it would be great to share that on IGTV."

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