Instagram is in talks with video producers to increase its funding this year for shows on IGTV, its platform for longer-form videos, according to people familiar with the matter.
The conversations come as the Facebook Inc. company tests ways for video makers to make more money from IGTV, including an advertising product and revenue-sharing program similar to those available on other social media platforms. The revenue-sharing initiative would give video partners a cut of the income from ads that appear alongside videos on IGTV.
IGTV debuted in 2018 as a section of Instagram’s main app as well as a standalone app of its own. It is designed for online video stars, mainstream celebrities and media companies to produce vertical and horizontal videos longer than the one-minute maximum for videos posted to Instagram’s primary feed.
IGTV is a priority for Instagram, especially as rival video-sharing platform TikTok surges in popularity among younger users, the people said.
But to increase IGTV users, Instagram needs to entice video makers to regularly publish to the platform. This has proven to be a key challenge for some producers, who have been hesitant to embrace IGTV until it offers a reliable way to make money, the people said.
Most of the videos published to IGTV are made by video creators on their own. In some cases, marketers pay for them as sponsored posts.
Since last year, Instagram has been funding some IGTV video series from a variety of social media stars and celebrities. The money mostly subsidized production costs for videos, instead of being used to commission or license exclusive series, according to people familiar with the arrangements. Bloomberg News reported on Instagram’s original IGTV subsidies in November.
Instagram is continuing those efforts, but is also talking to producers about creating more shows, the people said. Some of the funds could go to international video makers and video producers, they said.
It is also willing to pay more than before, discussing partnerships that could entail dollar contributions as high as mid-six to seven figures for multiple shows, the people said. Conversations are still early, these people cautioned.
“Nothing is set in stone and we are being thoughtful about how we introduce advertising, monetization and funding across IGTV, and on the platform,” a Facebook spokeswoman said in a statement.
Facebook is expected to increase spending on programming for its Facebook Watch video hub to $1.4 billion this year, though it is cutting back on expensive original series and live sports, according to tech news site The Information.
Instagram doesn’t have plans to establish formal funding for IGTV like Facebook’s programs to pay publishers for live videos in 2016 or, later, shows for its Watch video section, said Lila King, head of news and publishing partnerships at Instagram.
Past IGTV funding covered “lightweight” costs to make the videos, Ms. King said.
Ms. King did not rule out the possibility that Instagram would fund originals or exclusives if a “really fascinating idea” came along.
The company has not disclosed how many users IGTV has, or how many people have downloaded the standalone IGTV app.
Instagram recently removed a prominent icon in the main app that directed users to IGTV. Very few people were tapping the icon, the company said.
Users are more likely to find IGTV videos through Instagram’s main feed or within Instagram’s Explore section, Ms. King said.
On Wednesday, digital media startup ATTN released a six-episode IGTV show called “A Year of Firsts,” made in partnership with Michelle Obama. The show, narrated by Ms. Obama, focuses on a group of students sharing personal stories of their first year of college.
First-generation college students are a key audience for Ms. Obama and her Reach Higher organization, which aims to encourage students to pursue higher education.
IGTV became the ideal platform for the show because it’s an extension of Instagram, which has a younger user base than Facebook, said Matthew Segal, co-founder of ATTN.
“The retention we are seeing on IGTV is extremely high,” Mr. Segal said. “As users spend more time on Instagram in general, they’re getting used to streaming longer videos on IGTV.”
“A Year of Firsts” was self-funded by ATTN, with no direct funding or revenue coming from Instagram. ATTN makes money on IGTV by producing other shows paid for by brands and TV companies, said an ATTN spokeswoman.
The spokeswoman said the company is talking with Instagram about developing more original programming for IGTV but declined to comment on specifics regarding any funding from Instagram.
Online stars also remain interested in IGTV. Shots Studios, a production studio and management company representing social media personalities such as Lele Pons and Hannah Stocking, plans to release at least four new series on IGTV, according to the company’s chief executive, John Shahidi.
Social media stars’ interest in IGTV flows from the followings they have accumulated on the main Instagram experience. “That’s where most of our fans are,” Mr. Shahidi said.
Ms. Pons, whose online audience includes 39 million followers on Instagram, premiered a cooking show on IGTV when the platform launched. It helped inform the studio’s creative model for IGTV, which centers on personality-driven programming, Mr. Shahidi said.
Mr. Shahidi declined to comment on whether Shots Studios is taking funding from Instagram.
Instagram continues to tinker on an advertising product and revenue-sharing program for IGTV, according to people familiar with the ad-product effort and reports.
Instagram has been testing the feasibility of six-second and 15-second commercials that would appear either before or in the middle of IGTV videos, one of the people said. Some partners expect the company to introduce an ad product and revenue-sharing program this year, though Instagram is being careful about how ads would impact the user experience, the people said.
Instagram views YouTube’s ad revenue-sharing system for media companies and other video makers as a model to replicate, the people said.
IGTV advertising could arrive as early as March, Ad Age reported on Tuesday.
Instagram declined to provide a timeline for ad products and revenue sharing for IGTV but has acknowledged that it is working on introducing an ad system for the platform.
Write to Sahil Patel at [email protected]
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