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Instagram launches long-form video portal

Image: Kevin Systrom
Kevin Systrom, CEO and co-founder of Instagram, prepares on June 19, 2018 for the following day's announcement about IGTV in San Francisco. Copyright Jeff Chiu AP
Copyright Jeff Chiu AP
By Alyssa Newcomb with NBC News Tech and Science News
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The Facebook-owned app is poised to take on YouTube's vibrant video creator community.


SAN FRANCISCO — Instagram is ready for its close up.

The Facebook-owned image sharing company on Wednesday officially launched a new long-form video portal called IGTV, marking one of the biggest shifts in the app's history.

Called IGTV, the new feature will let people post videos lasting up to one hour and encourage individuals to start their own channels, edging the company into YouTube's territory. The videos will also be in the vertical format, which is native to smartphones and was first popularized by Snapchat.

The new video venture was announced at an event in San Francisco on Wednesday, where co-founder Kevin Systrom also shared that Instagram now has more than one billion users.

"How we watch is changing quickly, but what we watch is changing too," Systrom said.

IGTV will be a part of Instagram's explore tab and will also be a standalone app, where people can watch vertical videos from "many hundreds of creators" who Instagram worked with to help populate the platform ahead of the launch. Some accounts have privileges letting them post videos lasting as long as an hour, Systrom said.

"Right now, we are focused on building engagement, and right now, there are no ads in IGTV from day one," Systrom said, adding that he sees an opportunity for creators to monetize their followings in the future, similar to how they already can on YouTube.

In particular, teens are glued to their smartphones, with 95 percent having access to a phone and 45 percent reporting they are online "almost constantly," according to a survey from the Pew Research Center. Of the teens surveyed, 85 percent said they use YouTube, and 72 percent said they used Instagram, followed by Snapchat at 69 percent.

Instagram's popularity with younger people is important for Facebook, which has lost some of its appeal with teens. Three years ago, Facebook was used by 71 percent of teens and was the preferred social network, according to Pew. It slipped to 51 percent in the latest survey in 2018, with just 10 percent of teens reporting it was their most-used social platform.

Instagram's push into the video space comes five years to the day after the app debuted 60-second videos on the platform. It also comes as parent company Facebook makes a big bet on video with its Facebook Watch platform, in which the company has been paying video creators for long-form, exclusive content.

Systrom said IGTV is run by a small team, but noted that the company would be staffing up its moderation team to ensure content on the new platform adheres to Instagram's rules.

IGTV is available on Wednesday and will be open to everyone who wants to watch or become a video creator.

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