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Instagram is getting serious about challenging YouTube.
Today, the company announced IGTV, Instagram’s new initiative that lets users create standalone video channels for longform video.
Unlike YouTube, IGTV is just for full-screen, vertical videos. But like YouTube, the service is open to anyone who wants to make a dedicated channel. Users can follow channels and interact with video creators via comments.
“This is really an evolution of our mission from day one,” Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom said at a press event in San Francisco.
“Long form vertical video from the creators you love. It’s mobile first, it’s simple.”
IGTV channels are tied to your main Instagram account, so you don’t need to make a new account or separate handle. If you make a channel, it will appear in your main Instagram profile, alongside Story highlights. If you follow people with an IGTV channel, you’ll also be notified of new videos in a new section next to your inbox.
Watching IGTV videos is a bit like watching an Instagram live video now in that all videos are vertical and you can leave comments while you watch.
For Instagram, which also announced Wednesday that it passed 1 billion users, IGTV is its most significant new feature to date.
For the Facebook-owned service, it’s increasingly important to chip away at YouTube’s dominance in video.
Like YouTube, Instagram also has a large community of influential users with gigantic followings. But right now, the only way for those users to post extended videos is to go live. The only catch is that live videos don’t work for every occasion and, most importantly for Instagram, don’t contain ads.
Launching a dedicated space for longer form video solves both these problems as creators can share longer, more produced videos on Instagram, which they can then monetize.
IGTV won’t have ads in the beginning, Systrom said, but said it likely will in the future. He also noted creators are able to link out from IGTV channels, which can help them start monetizing their channels right away through brand partnerships.
Outside of increasing ad revenue, IGTV could also help encourage some of the most sought-after internet video creators to create content for Instagram rather than YouTube. Although Instagram remains popular, YouTube is currently the most popular social network among U.S. teens, according to a recent study from the Pew Research Center.
That’s a worrying trend for Facebook, which has seen its core app decline in popularity with teens over the last few years.
In fact, Systrom kicked off the IGTV press event by talking about teens’ changing video consumption habits, noting that they’re watching less TV than ever.
Which may help explain why Instagram’s IGTV and Facebook’s new game show-like live videos are suddenly so attractive.