What Is IGTV?

Why Instagram is offering a cable alternative and how it works

IGTV is Instagram's video-sharing platform designed specifically with phones in mind. It allows creators to upload long-form vertical videos meant to be viewed on smartphones. Unlike Instagram, which places a maximum length of one minute on videos, IGTV videos can be up to one hour long.

How IGTV Works

IGTV is available as a standalone app for your phone, but it's closely tied in with Instagram. Log in with your Instagram account—you can even access IGTV directly from the Instagram app by tapping the little television icon.

a woman watching IGTV on her phone by a river
Chalirmpoj Pimpisarn / EyeEm

What sets IGTV apart from Instagram is its focus on long videos instead of short videos and pictures. It's also designed to make it as easy as possible to watch stuff you're interested in.

When you launch the app, it immediately starts playing a popular or trending video. Swipe to get a new video, check out videos from friends or creators you follow, or search for new creators.

How to Get Instagram TV

Before you can get IGTV, you need to have an Instagram account. Since IGTV is part of Instagram, Instagram users are all set to use the service without doing anything extra. If you're new to Instagram, create an account using either your computer or your phone.

What Channels Does IGTV Have?

Unlike other online TV streaming services, IGTV doesn't offer the same channels you'd watch on cable or satellite television. On IGTV, the channels are the creators, meaning some of your favorite creators on Instagram probably already have channels; more of them may create channels in the future, and you can even make your own IGTV channel if you like.

Does IGTV Have Commercials or Pay Creators?

IGTV doesn't run commercials, so you can watch as much as you like without ever sitting through an ad. There's also no subscription fee, and you don't have to pay to download the app, so the service is free to use.

Unlike YouTube and Facebook Watch, which both have provisions in place to either share revenue with creators or pay creators directly, IGTV does not pay creators. If you want to support your favorite creators on Instagram, your best bet is to check if they have a Patreon, sell merchandise, or have some other way to help out.

How to Find Videos and Channels on IGTV

IGTV is designed to automatically play a popular or trending video the moment you start the app. You can watch that video if you find it interesting, or swipe the screen to move on to a new one.

how to find a video on igtv
IGTV is designed around showing a constant stream of curated videos, but you can also search for your favorite creators.

If you have something specific in mind, search for a channel or video in the IGTV app. Tap the magnifying-glass icon to search for specific creators. When you tap a creator, his or her channel opens on IGTV.

How to Follow Someone on IGTV

If you're already on the channel of a creator you want to follow, look for the little icon that looks like a person with a plus symbol next to it, and tap it. The plus will change into a check mark, signifying you've followed them.

how to follow someone on igtv
Following people on IGTV is easy, but you have to know how to get the follow icon to pop up.

You can also follow someone on IGTV directly from a video. This approach is handy if you're scrolling through the feed and see something you like. You don't have to leave the video, or even stop watching it, to follow the creator.

To follow someone, tap anywhere on the video to reveal the overlay. Tap the name of the creator then the follow icon.

Is IGTV Really a Cable Replacement or YouTube Killer?

IGTV is focused on vertical video, and all of the content is made by Instagram creators, so it's more of a YouTube alternative than a cable replacement. The focus on vertical video also means it isn't likely to be a direct challenger to YouTube, although the ongoing shift of media consumption to phones could give IGTV an edge.