When Instagram’s long-form video platform IGTV came out about a year ago, its major differentiator from the competition was its vertical video format. But now, with tough competition in the streaming world, it's moving on from that vertical-only strategy. In a blog post on Thursday, Instagram announced it’s adding the ability to upload horizontal videos.
Advertisers believe it’s a step toward monetizing the channel, which has remained ad-free since it launched last June. In April, advertising executives told Ad Age that Instagram has been speaking to them about the potential of ads on IGTV.
“Adding horizontal video should increase content creation, which will bring more viewers, and more content and more users should mean more viability as an ad-supported platform,” says Jack Appleby, director of creative strategy at Midnight Oil, who works with gaming clients such as Spotify and Activision. “Asking Instagram users to make long-form, vertical-specific content was never going to work. It’s too big of an ask for content that can’t be repurposed elsewhere.”
Shooting and producing content separately for IGTV has been difficult for brands and creators using the young channel. Due to the extra cost and production time involved in making vertical video, many brands, publishers and influencers have simply been recycling content from elsewhere—including horizontal YouTube videos, knowing full well that the content would force viewers to turn their phones sideways. Others have had to reshoot content meant for other channels.
Ashley Yuki, IGTV product lead, told Ad Age that the change stemmed from requests from creators wanting to upload their landscape videos, and from users.
“IGTV should be the home of great content, no matter how it's shot,” Yuki says. “By allowing landscape, we're removing barriers to production that we heard from creators to help creativity flourish on IGTV.” She declined to share details about possible monetization plans.
Toni Box, group director of social and content at ForwardPMX, says IGTV's move is “a natural alignment with how most people are used to consuming video.” Box added that while the ability to post to IGTV might become easier, there’s the potential that brands and influencers will post the horizontal video content they have “for the sake of checking off a box,” without thinking about the user experience.
Advertisers believe IGTV has a ways to go to make serious money from IGTV. Appleby of Midnight Oil says IGTV’s lack of a search engine means its content isn’t seen by anyone other than the original account’s followers, making it tough for IGTV to lure media budgets away from YouTube.
David Armano, global strategy director at Edelman, says IGTV's horizontal video "is a baby step that is likely going to make creators and the production teams who work with creators happy. Happy creators and production teams mean more, better content, and that theoretically leads to better monetization. It’s a long-game move.”