How IGTV Is Fueling the Social Media Disruption of Traditional TV

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The rising costs of cable and the increasing accessibility of online content are just a few reasons why traditional television viewership has gone down, and the launch of IGTV demonstrates the evolution of the consumer mindset. Social channels are fueling the TV revolution, and Instagram has now positioned itself to help lead that charge.

When Instagram was first released in 2010, the app was simple, allowing users to filter and share photos. At that time, mobile networks, screens, and cameras were unable to support longer-form video, and mobile users didn’t demonstrate an interest in long-form content on mobile. But over the years there has been a shift in consumer behavior, with more people cutting the cord on linear TV. This shift is particularly true with younger audiences, who watch 13% less linear TV year-over-year and spend more of their time watching videos and TV on digital platforms.

As of June 20, Instagram users are now able to upload video content up to an hour in length to live on the new IGTV app.

Introducing IGTV

Instagram TV (IGTV) is Instagram’s new app for watching long-form vertical video. There’s a standalone IGTV app, but users can also watch from within Instagram, making the content accessible to Instagram’s community of 1 billion users.

What makes IGTV different from other video platforms is that content starts playing immediately when a user opens the app. This includes videos from handles that users follow in the main Instagram app, popular videos from Instagram celebrities, as well as a curated feed based on videos a user is likely to be interested in. Videos are organized into channels called “For You,” “Following,” “Popular,” and “Continue Watching.”

The IGTV User Experience

IGTV is built for how people actually use their phones, with Instagram user behavior in mind. Over the past two years, Instagram has trained its users to record vertical video through Instagram Stories, making IGTV a natural transition. The platform also notifies users in the Instagram news feed when a handle they follow posts new content on IGTV, truly merging the two experiences. Similar to Instagram, users can comment, heart, or share IGTV videos.

Below are the key differentiators between IGTV and Instagram:

  • Vertical video: While Instagram’s news feed and Stories can include image and video assets, IGTV is an environment that engages mobile consumers with only full-screen vertical video.
  • Long-form video: On Instagram, news feed videos can only be one minute or less. On IGTV, videos can be up to an hour long. Instagram has reportedly been telling video makers to opt for videos in the 10-minute range, which is closer to other digital platforms than traditional TV length.
  • Instant immersion: IGTV truly replicates the experience of turning on a television, since content starts playing as soon as a user opens the app. Videos play from people a user follows on Instagram or from similar creators based on the user’s interests.
  • Channels: On IGTV, the creators are the channels. When a user follows a creator on Instagram, their IGTV channel will appear for a user to watch. All platform users can create channels and upload IGTV videos, meaning anyone can be a creator.

How Brands Are Using IGTV

From an organic perspective, brands have been quick to adopt the new platform. Companies like Chipotle, Nike, Netflix, Warby Parker, and Gucci were early testers and quickly developed or repurposed content. These brands have used a variety of different content types, such as playful one-off videos and influencer interview series.

Bacardi worked to integrate Instagram Stories and IGTV by putting a sponsored music video on IGTV that will be directed based on polls within Instagram Stories.

National Geographic capitalized on its massive Instagram following (89 million users) by airing the final episode of its TV show, “One Strange Rock,” in a vertical video format on IGTV.

The Potential for Advertisers

As advertisers shift spend away from linear TV, they’re searching for the next source of premium ad inventory. While a paid opportunity is not currently available on IGTV, advertisers are already anticipating its launch. The company did not announce pre-roll or mid-roll video ads, but there is speculation that those will be the first ad products available.

Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom indicated that IGTV is “a very reasonable place (for ads) to end up.” In order for creators to gain enough value from the new platform in the future, the company will look into ways for those creators to monetize.

When advertising is available, IGTV presents an opportunity for brands to engage with users on a deeper level, reaching those who opt-in to a more immersive video experience outside the news feed. Here, consumers are specifically entering into a TV-like experience, where there is a higher likelihood that a brand’s message will be received by a focused audience.

In Summary

The rise of IGTV demonstrates a continued shift in consumer behavior across social platforms. The simple, intuitive, and individually curated interface enhances the user experience and creates an environment that has real potential to compete with linear television, especially for a cord-cutting audience.

While many digital video creators have Instagram accounts, they previously used other platforms to post videos longer than 60 seconds. Now, with IGTV supporting hour-long video content, Instagram is positioning itself as a place for new and existing stars to build strong, video-based presences.

With Instagram’s curation of creators and publisher content, IGTV has a unique opportunity to become the TV of mobile. One billion monthly users spend almost an hour on Instagram every day, meaning the question isn’t if IGTV will increase those numbers, but by how much.