Instagram releases app allowing users create hour-long videos

IGTV will intensify competition among ad-supported streaming services such as YouTube

Kevin Systrom, CEO and co-founder of Instagram: Facebook’s Instagram app is loosening its restraints on video with a new channel that will attempt to lure younger viewers away from Google’s YouTube and pave the way to sell more advertising. Photograph: Jeff Chiu

Kevin Systrom, CEO and co-founder of Instagram: Facebook’s Instagram app is loosening its restraints on video with a new channel that will attempt to lure younger viewers away from Google’s YouTube and pave the way to sell more advertising. Photograph: Jeff Chiu

 

Instagram is taking on YouTube and other ad-supported streaming service with a new mobile app IGTV.

The Facebook-owned social network is hoping to tap into the popularity of internet celebrities, artists and even pets, who are attracting millions of followers on the platform.

Instagram currently limits videos to one minute; the new app will allow videos of up to an hour in length. The company said the format had been devised with how people use their phones in mind - full screen and vertical.

“Teens are now watching 40 per cent less TV than they did five years ago,” Instagram chief executive Kevin Systrom said at an event to announce the launch in San Francisco. “It’s time for video to move forward and evolve.”

Although there is a standalone app for IGTV, the content will also be accessible inside the main Instagram app. “When you follow a creator on Instagram, their IGTV channel will show up for you to watch,” Mr Systrom said.

The platform is also trying to encourage users to become creators; anyone can start a channel by uploading IGTV videos to the app or on the web.

The latest feature is another step in the development of Instagram. Founded in 2010, Instagram was bought by Facebook in 2012 for $1 billion. Originally a photo-sharing app, it has since evolved to include video, direct messaging and Snapchat-inspired features like daily “stories” that disappear in 24 hours.

The service now has more than 1 billion users, Instagram said.

Facebook shares rose 2.3 per cent on Wednesday to $202.06 after earlier crossing the $200 mark for the first time.

Tech firms such as Facebook, Alphabet Inc’s YouTube and Snap Inc’s Snapchat have been spending heavily to grow mobile video services that will attract both users and corporate brand advertising.

Courting stars to post videos is part of their strategies. Instagram said it has signed up personalities such as Lele Pons, who has 25 million Instagram followers, for IGTV.

Ms Pons said she did not plan to choose sides between two of Silicon Valley’s largest companies. “I’m still going to be posting on YouTube as well as on Instagram,” she said.

Facebook on Tuesday launched a separate effort to lure video makers away from YouTube, offering ways to make money on the Facebook app. YouTube said it plans to update its commercialisation options this week.

Instagram does not immediately plan to share revenue with video creators but may in the future, Mr Systrom said.

The service does not have advertising at launch, but research firm eMarketer said it expects it will have ads eventually, and that marketers in the meantime will sign up stars for endorsement deals.

As social media “influencers” have gained popularity, “I only wonder why it took Instagram so long to roll this out,” eMarketer analyst Debra Aho Williamson said. – Additional reporting: Reuters