Since the video service launched in 2005, many competitors have aspired to knock it off its throne. Here’s how they’ve tried.
The leap felt natural given the success Instagram had been having
with Stories. According to James Whatley, a strategy partner at Ogilvy
U.K., Facebook recently told the agency that “40% of time spent in
Instagram is now spent in Stories.” But Stories segments can only be
15 seconds apiece. Instagram’s Live service, which launched in No-
vember 2016, was another proof of concept: Users often went back to
rewatch live streams. IGTV was initially just a code name, but it stuck.
IGTV’s mission may be similar to Google-owned You Tube’s, but
Krieger and Systrom wanted the likeness to end there. They latched
onto vertical video and tried to keep things simple and intimate.
When users tap into IGTV (via a small button to the right of the
Instagram logo), full-screen video immediately starts playing. A
single swipe starts the next one. To navigate around, there’s a single-
row tray that displays more clips. “So it’s not like, ‘I’m going back to
a guide,’ ” Krieger says. “You’re still in the experience.”
By December 2017, the internal pitch presentation was ready. By
February, the team was in place. Four months after that, IGTV launched
at a splashy event in San Francisco with avocado toast, selfe stations,
and IGTV clips by Kim Kardashian and beauty infuencer Manny
Gutierrez playing on huge, portrait-mode screens. Tellingly, the vid-
eos had to be reformatted minutes before the event was supposed to
begin after a technical snafu deleted the fles, delaying the affair by
an hour. Sources say that the overall rollout of IGTV was affected by
the “political shit show” going on between Facebook and Instagram.
Krieger acknowledges that the development time for IGTV was
unusually fast. “I’ll tell you what went wrong in Stories and what
went right in IGTV,” he says, leaning forward in his chair. “With Stories, we were in there for every single decision, which meant that we
had a hand in that product at a very detailed level.” But often, that
meant when Krieger and Systrom’s attention had to be elsewhere,
Stories’ developers would be stuck waiting for answers. The cofounders stepped back during the IGTV build in order to empower the
team. Another expediting factor was that Systrom was on paternity
leave. “So if you were gonna call him, it had to be really important,”
Krieger says, laughing.
Despite reports of tensions between Instagram’s leaders and
their Facebook overlords, Krieger was magnanimous when
discussing the role Facebook played in IGTV’s creation. Although
IGTV ultimately competes for attention with the year-old Facebook
Watch, Krieger says the IGTV team had weekly meetings with Fi-
dji Simo, Facebook VP of video, where “it was like, ‘Here’s all we’re
learning. Anything that stands out from what you learned?’” In
addition, “We had [Facebook’s] world-class video infrastructure
just waiting to be integrated with,” he says.
Once IGTV was live, there were issues. Content jumped from
low-quality DI Y videos of teens in their bedrooms to sleek Mercedes-Benz–branded clips. (Worse, graphic videos depicting child abuse
were discovered in September as being algorithmically recommended to users; Instagram apologized and removed them, though
it didn’t ban the users who posted them.) The lack of any playlist or
curation features made navigation within IGTV diffcult.
Krieger doesn’t finch when reminded of any grievances. Instead,
he smiles and reveals another gripe: Shortly after launch, his wife
told him, “ ‘That little banner [that comes up at the top of Instagram
when someone you follow posts an IGTV video]? I never tap on it.’ And
I’m like, We clearly have work to do.” He admits that IGTV’s presence
within every aspect of Instagram—the feed, Stories, the Explore tab,
and user profles—needs to be better thought through. “Those are
[version] 0.5, not even [version 1 issues], because we’re just getting
out there to learn,” he says. “And now it’s a matter of fguring out how
it integrates with the rest of the system.”
Two weeks later, though, he and Systrom were out.
the top of its leadership: There were product people, like
ACEBOOK WAS ONCE DEFINED BY THE BIFURCATION AT
Zuckerberg, Systrom, and Krieger, and businessfolk, like
COO Sheryl Sandberg.
IGTV product chief Ashley Yuki represents a new wave of leader
within the organization, one with experience in both disciplines,
much like Simo, her counterpart at Facebook Watch. Yuki studied
business and engineering as an undergrad at the Wharton School,
and she’s shifted between advertising and product roles since she
joined Facebook, in 2013. At Instagram, which has been her focus for
Grouper | 2005
The company technically started before
You Tube, but by the
time its service came
out in December
2005, You Tube was
already a rocket.
KEY MISTAKE Its efforts
to comply with
copyright law hindered growth.
OU TCOME Sony acquired it in August
2006 and turned it
into the streaming
Google Video | 2005
Like Grouper, started
before You Tube but
never got much traction.
KEY MISTAKE user-generated videos
weren’t as accessible
to viewers as they
were on You Tube.
bought You Tube for
a then astonishing
$1.65 billion in
Hulu | 2008
When two TV networks first teamed up
to launch a You Tube
rival, wags called it
ClownCo. But the
great viewing experience proved that
users would watch
longer videos online.
KE Y MIS TAKE Its narrow
mission of being
a home for old TV—
growth for years.
OUTCOME Hulu is a
credible, if money-losing, Netflix alternative, now majority
owned by Disney.
These two startups
built businesses on
top of You Tube by
of popular creators.
KE Y MIS TAKE Dissatisfaction over how
much money they
could make on YouTube led both to try
to go direct to fans.
They didn’t follow.
OUTCOME Fullscreen is
lost within AT&T, and
Maker is now the Disney Digital Network.
Vessel | 2014
Former Hulu CEO
Jason Kilar launched
a streaming service
that aspired to
get consumers to pay
to get content from
their favorite creators,
before they posted
KE Y MIS TAKE Turns
out that people
will happily wait in
order to watch stuff
for free, or find
OUTCOME In 2016,
Vessel, and then
As part of CEO Mark
goal to be a video-first company, Watch
video hub for its 2 billion users.
KE Y MIS TAKE The company hasn’t made a
splashy bet on content à la Netflix with
House of Cards,
which would draw
users to check it out.
OUTCOME Watch continues, but its trajectory isn’t clear.