Instagram wants to kill—and save—TV

IGTV & why it matters for the future of television

ICYMI, this week Kevin Systrom—CEO/Cofounder of Instagram—announced the release of IGTV. He called it “most exciting feature to date”.

The jury’s still out on the hyperbolism of that statement, but it’s big news nonetheless. IGTV is an app, as well as a new feature within Instagram, for watching long-form vertical-oriented video.

Based on the launch event, it’s also an attempt to invest in (or capitalize on) creators. Those incredibly popular personalities that have made careers and celebrity status through the app.

More creators, more famous, more Instagram.

At least that’s what we can see from how Kevin spoke about it.

Instagram now has 1 billion monthly active users. Alongside their growth, they’ve been putting more and more emphasis on video. In many ways, Instagram is becoming a video sharing app, where the photos aren’t photos anymore. They’re single frame videos. 🤯

They launched video in 2013. Instagram stories in 2016. And now, exactly 5 years from that first video launch (to the day), they release IGTV. The logic behind this is interesting.

First, as Kevin said, teens are watching 40% less TV than 5 years ago. Second, Instagram has seen a 60% increase in video in the last year alone.

So, TV is dying and/or dead. And video is massive and growing. The obvious response for Instagram is to invest in content creators by building the environment for them to share more, without the time limitations, and being able to say you have a TV channel, instead of just an account. (Sounds so much cooler)

And, in the process, they’re putting a nail in TV’s coffin. Or, making TV cool again. Your choice.

Why IGTV matters

There are two ways we can look at IGTV. One is to minimize it and say it’s just Instagram stories that can be long (up to 60 minutes for some, or unlimited in the future).

The other is to view it as an intentional moment in TV history that, finally, is catching up with the devices we use.

The latter sounds better—let’s run with it.

We’ve been using mobile devices to watch video for a while now, but only in the past year or so are we seeing video production conform to the mobile screen. What you see with Instagram stories and HQ has pushed us in this direction.

Mobile first video is starting to feel normal, but it’s still new enough to feel immature.

IGTV is helping to elevate this new video orientation. It’s likely we’ll see more of the shows we’re used to watching on a television being framed for mobile. News, sitcoms, sports, and movies all made for a mobile screen?

Why not?

Cinematography that specializes in mobile video? Professional grade cameras that shoot for mobile? I assume these are already things, but will definitely become more ubiquitous in the near future.

Younger viewers are growing up in a world where watching long form video on a mobile device is completely normal. My aging mind and eyes find that disturbing, but I’m not the future.

Kevin Systrom isn’t saying something we don’t already know. We know the tools of television are old and out of date. Mobile viewing is clunky, and navigation, search, discovery, and personalization all need to be 1) improved, and 2) approached without the baggage of TV’s legacy.

He may not be the first to say these things, but he’s putting his money where his mouth is and pushing the needle forward.

What can be better?

Tons can be better, of course. But, a design critique right now would be premature. We’ll be watching this closely, using it ourselves, and overanalyzing what it means for the future of interactive media.

What do you think? Will you use IGTV, either as a creator or a viewer? Let us know your thoughts!


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