Instagram TV: YouTube Rival or Short-lived trend?

Mitchel Baker

Mitchel Baker posted in Digital Effect 10/09/2018

Facebook are on a path to dominance when it comes to acquiring and holding people’s attention, but they are not without competition. Despite owning Instagram and WhatsApp among others Facebook still faces tough competition from internet giant Google and its subsidiary companies, namely YouTube.

YouTube has been the dominant force for long form video for years surpassing Vimeo and many others but with Facebook continually looking to expand their empire it was only a matter of time before they created something which directly opposed the YouTube platform. This direct opposition came in the form of IGTV a long form vertical video platform which works both independently and as a feature of Instagram. The app leverages Instagram carrying over your Instagram followers to your IGTV account. In addition to this the ability to open IGTV within Instagram (even if you don’t have the IGTV app installed) offers incredible discoverability for creators on IGTV.

However, some are starting to realise that IGTV is not as mainstream as the initial hype would lead you to believe and whilst many creators are turning to IGTV to fill the white space the platform has not yet erupted the way many thought it might. Is IGTV going to become another vine or meerkat destined to the social media app graveyard or does it stand a realistic chance of rivalling YouTube in a meaningful way?

 

Vertical Video

Firstly, are people ready for vertical video? Yes. It doesn’t matter what way you hold the camera as long as the content is good. The stories feature on snapchat, Instagram and Facebook have proven this, and I am confident this will continue to be the case even with long form content. It has not taken off on YouTube because the status quo dictates that you use horizontal video, but the platform does actually support vertical video too.

 

Why A Separate App?

I (like many others) thought that the Instagram long form video play would come by simply extending the video length cap on Instagram posts, but I believe that having a separate long form content app is a much smarter idea. Keeping IGTV separate yet connected to Instagram shows that Facebook are taking into consideration one very important thing – how users use a platform. The ability to consume a selection of photos and videos on Instagram during a five-minute break at work is significantly different to sitting down to delve into a few 10, 15 or 20 minute plus videos on YouTube. YouTube has replaced Tv in many ways and users treat it accordingly. They sit down for the long hall the same way they do to binge Game of Thrones or Orange Is The New Black.

Instagram have drawn a distinction between what IGTV hopes to be and what Instagram is and understand that if they try to show you a 20-minute video when you only have five minutes to spare the platform would not last long. I believe that if IGTV does succeed that this understanding of the context of how and when the users use the platform will have been one of the instrumental factors.

 

Why Go After YouTube?

Why would Instagram go after YouTube? Facebook are pretty good as far as businesses go and they have a habit of either buying competitors or straight up putting them out of business. Remember Meerkat the hot new live streaming app of 2015? It was the breakout star of 2015’s SXSW conference but then Facebook live came along leaving it to fall into the social media graveyard. Then there is of course Instagram itself which was bought by Facebook for $1 billion in 2012 when the company was only a year and a half old and making no revenue.

These examples have one important thing in common, both Meerkat and Instagram were young, YouTube is not. YouTube has established dominance in the long form video arena so many are sceptical that IGTV can pull off the monumental task of toppling the video streaming giant. But it was inevitable that one platform would make a direct challenge against the other. Instagram and YouTube were competitors a long time before IGTV, IGTV just happens to be the most obvious state of this competition to date.

When we think of Coca-Cola’s competitors we think of Pepsi. Why? Because they both sell cola drinks. But the reality is that everyone from Carling to Cravendale are Coca-Cola’s competitors too. Coke are not looking to just be the best cola on the market they want to be the best drink. This is the same for YouTube and Instagram. Neither want to be the best picture or video platform on the market they want to be the best social platform – the best at holding user’s attention because that’s what both Facebook and Google run on. Every time you choose to drink a bottle of Volvic water you are choosing not to drink a bottle of Coca-Cola and every time you choose to spend time on YouTube you are choosing to not spend time on Instagram which is why a bold play such as IGTV was inevitable.

 

Why IGTV Can Win

Instagram in general has a history of replicating aspects of other platforms and in doing so attracting those platforms’ creators, enticing them with the ability to continue to create their content but on a platform with better reach, or organic discovery, or any of a number of features Instagram stands out for. Whether it was replicating Snapchat’s stories feature or giving users the ability to add music to their stories in a blatant attack against Musical.ly, Facebook are using Instagram to go directly after their competitors.

Unlike Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat, YouTube is almost exclusively reliant on creators. Few people are going there to see what their friends are up to, what they had for breakfast or how well their children are doing at school. That stuff is reserved for Facebook. And their friend’s beach side holiday? You’ll probably find that on Instagram. So, if YouTube creators start flocking to IGTV or potential future youtubers opt for IGTV instead then YouTube could be in trouble. I don’t think YouTube will be going out of business anytime soon regardless of any success IGTV may have but over time they may find they’re being sapped of users, viewer time and revenue.

Its also crucial that we quantify what success for IGTV looks like. They don’t need to topple YouTube. Being number two in this space and getting as close to YouTube as possible could still qualify as a success though I doubt Zuckerberg has any intention of settling for second place.

 

IGTV Is Not A Finished Product

However, if IGTV is successful I highly doubt it will come from the apps current form. IGTV in its current form is not the final product. That doesn’t mean you’re looking at an app that doesn’t function. It certainly does and so far I like it but, just like Facebook and Instagram, IGTV needs time to evolve before we can really see where it will place in the social media rankings and if and how it will compete with YouTube. It is too early to judge IGTV based on the current product or even on the current user base given the (relatively) soft launch of the app. When you have the full power of Facebook and Instagram behind you everyone should know about you, but this doesn’t appear to be the case with IGTV. The app seems to have been relatively unacknowledged and many people that are aware of it still think it is just a feature within Instagram. This could be poor execution on Facebook’s part, or that users are still waiting for creators to migrate to the platform.  Either way, I tend not to bet against Facebook so I’m willing to consider that they want to roll it out slowly, so they can amend and continue to develop the product before more aggressively promoting it and drawing in creators and viewers. Whatever the reason the point remains that it is just too early to rule IGTV out.

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