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IGTV and How To Make Video Work in The Messaging App Ecosystem

Photo of Tim Mulligan
by Tim Mulligan

The rise of the messaging app ecosystem over the previous seven years has created a profound challenge for premium video production companies. There are tight creative limitations that come with creating content for the smaller real estate of a smart phone screen and creating non-intrusive content on what is fundamentally a personal communication platform can also be problematic. Add to this the arbitrary time limits set by the messaging app ecosystem architects – such as Snap’s original eight-second video duration, which gave rise to the super short-form video and the evolution of video as an illustration rather than destination in an ongoing social story. All of this has made messaging apps seem inherently difficult for traditional premium content operators. Add to this the challenge of monetising audiences in the messaging app ecosystem, and the huge opportunity afforded in the area would appear to be ephemeral.

These challenges were of a secondary order of magnitude for the main non-Chinese messaging app services that were either relying upon venture capital largesse, such as Snapchat in Snap’s pre-IPO days, or Facebook-owned Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram, which part of a larger and more profitable browser-based platform business. At the time, growth and increasing reach and engagement were the main metrics for measuring messaging app success. However, messaging apps are now so well established and have disrupted the browsing experience to such an extent that they have now moved into a mature stage of their development, where organic growth is slowing, with 43% penetration in Q4 2017 (MIDiA Researchconsumer survey data.)

In August 2016, Snapchat signed a deal with NBCUniversalto bring music talent show The Voiceto the service. In February 2017 – the last month before Snapchat parent company Snap became a  public company, an original content deal was signed with the BBC for exclusive content from its Planet Earth showto appear on the messaging app. Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram were both fortunate in that they were able to delay their need to monetise for longer, but as the revenues are now starting to come under threat from the haemorrhaging of users from the core Facebook browser service to the messaging apps substitutes, a direct response to this was last week’s announcement of the launch of  IGTV- Instagram TV.

Long-form video comes to Instagram

Much like Snap disrupting its personal network clique USP by integrating studio-production video content, Instagram has decided to dispense with its 60-second video clip length and permit its content creator community to upload videos up to 60 minutes in length. It has also chosen to attempt to replicate the free-to view broadcast TV model of appointment-to-view content. When a user logs into the IGTV app, which will be a new app distinct from the Instagram app, they will be fed content from the live streams currently available or “on air.”  At the same time, it will be possible for Instagram users to view Instagram TV from within their existing app thereby crucially retaining internal app engagement.

Right now, IGTV is being pushed as a content-creator-led long-form in-app discovery experience. However, if IGTV takes off then expect the big content production studios to start utilising the app and producing bespoke content as a way to future-proof themselves against digital disruption.

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