By Richard Nieva / CNET

Instagram is ready for its closeup.

The Facebook-owned photo app on Wednesday unveiled IGTV, a standalone mobile app focused on programming from creators on the platform. Video on the app will be vertical and full-screen, and content will start playing right when a user opens the app.

The idea is for creators to post polished videos as they would on YouTube — with equipment that’s a notch above the smartphone cameras people usually use to post Instagram videos.

“It’s time for video to move forward and evolve,” Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom said at an event in San Francisco.

Systrom also said Instagram now has 1 billion users a month.

While IGTV is a standalone app, the service will also be accessible through the main Instagram app. It’s a dedicated hub for longer videos, much like Snapchat’s Discovery section, and will be curated by the Instagram team.

Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom announces IGTV at an event in San Francisco. (James Martin/CNET)

Videos on IGTV can also be longer than the 60-second maximum for regular Instagram videos. For IGTV, videos can run 10 minutes, though some accounts will be able to post videos that are up to an hour long.

The move is specifically about courting creators, well-known personalities on the platform who have big followings and lots of influence among their fans. Until now, YouTube, owned by Google, has been the premier territory for finding and developing that kind of talent.

Instagram held the event in a cavernous San Francisco venue. The room was bathed in orange and pink lights reminiscent of the Instagram logo. There were food and drink stalls serving avocado toast, pressed juice and gourmet coffee. Along the edge of the stage, highly Instagrammable photo booths were set up. One looked like a beach scene, another like a tie between a laundromat and a night club, with the words “So Fresh So Clean” printed on the wall.

A big push in video

It’s not a surprise that Instagram would make major investments in professional video. The audience for original digital video has grown in the past five years, from 45 million adults in 2013 to an estimated 72 million adults in 2018, a 60 percent increase, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

For now, there will be no ads on IGTV, which means no revenue sharing between creators and Instagram. However, monetization is something the team is thinking about for somewhere down the road. “There will obviously be a way for creators to make a living,” Systrom said during a press conference after the main event.

Video has been a focal point more broadly at Facebook too. In 2015, the company unveiled Facebook Live, a livestreaming feature. At the time, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said we’re entering the “golden age of live video.”

But Facebook Live has also been a source of controversy, as some people used it to broadcast violence, including killings. Videos of unarmed black men killed by police have been streamed to the site. Suicides and rapes have been posted, too. Facebook has responded by adding more content reviewers to monitor the site, sometimes adding warnings before graphic videos. The social network is also developing artificial intelligence tools to police content.

In addition, Facebook has invested in Watch, an initiative for professional content akin to what you’d find on Netflix, including shows like Ball in the Family, about Los Angeles Laker Lonzo Ball, his dad, Lavar, and the rest of the family. Another show, Humans of New York, is a documentary series based on the popular Facebook page by photographer Brandon Stanton.


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