Michelle Obama stars in new Instagram series about college produced by ATTN
A new show coming to IGTV will star the former First Lady Michelle Obama, who is working with digital publisher ATTN on the series that highlights college freshman and their daily struggles.
The show is called “A Year of Firsts,” and it is the second time that ATTN has tapped a leading political figure to host an IGTV program. In 2018, the publisher produced a series called “Here’s the Deal with Joe Biden.”
“Each episode is kicked off by Michelle Obama, with an explainer on different barriers to getting into college,” says Matthew Segal, co-founder of ATTN, the Los Angeles-based digital media company. “Then the episodes will feature a bunch of different college students.”
On Tuesday, the trailer for the show premiered on Obama’s Instagram, and the first episode is set to stream in the middle of the month. The series follows students who are the first generation of their families to attend college.
ATTN worked with Obama’s nonprofit group Reach Higher on the six-part series. They chose IGTV for the show because of the potential to reach younger audiences, Segal says.
“The user base on Instagram is incredibly young and it’s very Gen Z oriented,” Segal says.
ATTN has been one of the most active media companies on IGTV with its Biden series and most recently with a show featuring Caleb McLaughlin, one of the young stars of Netflix’s “Stranger Things.” ATTN has embraced the video service as a way to create longer-form series for Instagram, while many other creators have opted to produce Stories, which are the shorter snippets of video that disappear in 24 hours.
Facebook, which owns Instagram, has prioritized Stories over IGTV, and it also has emphasized Facebook Watch, which is a premium streaming video service, similar to YouTube. “There just hasn’t been as much pick up with IGTV because of how popular Stories have been,” says Ellie Bamford, head of media at R/GA. “That’s where brands have gone to first.”
However, if a media company like ATTN can show the potential of IGTV, then that could help spark the service, Bamford says. At the very least, even if IGTV does not make it as a long-term standalone product, these types of episodic programs will likely always have a place within Instagram, Bamford says.
“They’re definitely great content creators,” Bamford says of ATTN, adding that IGTV is “an area where, creatively, I don’t think people have known quite what to do with it, yet.”
The former first lady brings some star power to the equation with her 35.3 million Instagram followers. That’s nearly as many as Lele Pons, the Instagram celebrity who was one of the first stars on IGTV when the service launched in 2018. Pons has 38.1 million Instagram followers.
Obama’s show will not feature any brand sponsorships, and IGTV does not show ads. ATTN paid for the production of the show, according to Segal.
IGTV is in its second year as a video service, and it has mostly taken a back seat to Facebook Watch as a priority for Facebook, which owns Instagram. However, publishers and celebrities are still creating for IGTV with hopes that it will open a path to generating revenue in the future. Media companies make money from ad breaks in shows they stream to Facebook Watch, for instance.
Last year, Facebook created Facebook News, a section reserved for journalism that links to publishers’ websites, where they can make money from ads. Facebook paid publishers to participate in the news hub.
Political programming is a good fit for IGTV, according to Segal. Instagram is becoming a more active place for political discussions, especially with the 2020 election heating up. However, the service faces many of the same challenges that are prevalent on Facebook, where there is misinformation and overheated interactions among users.
“Instagram is Gen Z’s go-to source for political news and it’s already having an impact on the 2020 election,” Segal says.
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg have used IGTV, for instance.
Obama’s show is not overtly political, however, Segal says. “It’s a non-partisan series,” he notes. “It’s about getting kids into college and keeping them in college.”