What Is IGTV?

Why Instagram is offering a cable alternative and how it works

a woman watching IGTV on her phone by a river
IGTV brings-long form vertical video content from some of your favorite creators right to your phone.

Chalirmpoj Pimpisarn / EyeEm

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 very closely tied in with Instagram. You log in with your Instagram account, and you can even access IGTV directly from the Instagram app by tapping the little television icon.

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, and you can easily 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, you can create an account using either your computer or your phone.

how to get an instagram account for igtv
If you don't have an Instagram account, you need to make one before you can use IGTV.

If you don't have an Instagram account yet, you have the option to sign in with your Facebook account. You can also create a brand new Instagram account if you don't have Facebook or want to keep them separate.

Here's how to sign up for Instagram and IGTV on a computer:

  1. Navigate to Instagram.com with your favorite web browser.
  2. Select Log In with Facebook if you want to use your Facebook account, or enter your information and select Sign up to create a new account.
  3. Look through the suggested creators and select Follow if you want to follow any of them, then scroll down and select Get Started.

Your Instagram account is ready to go at that point, and you can go ahead and download the IGTV app if you like. Instagram will send you a confirmation email with some instructions to follow, so make sure to keep an eye out for that.

If you don't have a desktop computer, or you just prefer to do everything with your phone, you can also sign up for IGTV directly from your phone. To do this, you'll need to download the Instagram app.

instructions showing how to sign up for IGTV in the Instagram phone app
You can sign up for IGTV on your phone, but you need to use the main Instagram app.

Here's how to sign up for IGTV using the Instagram app:

  1. Download and launch the Instagram app.
  2. Tap Create New Account.
  3. Enter either your phone number or email address, and tap Next.
  4. Enter your name, create a password, and tap Next.
  5. Tap Next.

Tap Change Username if you want a different username.

At this point, your Instagram account has been created. You can follow the next few onscreen prompts to connect to Facebook, add a profile picture, and fully set up your account if you like, or just download the IGTV app and log in.

Once you have an Instagram account, or you have signed in with your Facebook account, you're ready to jump right into IGTV. You can access IGTV content from the Instagram website on your computer and the Instagram app on your phone, but finding videos to watch in the dedicated IGTV phone app is a whole lot easier.

Here's where you can get the Instagram app:

And here's where you can get the IGTV app:

What Channels Does IGTV Have?

Unlike other online TV streaming services, IGTV doesn't have 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 have 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 totally 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 makes it extremely easy to find videos to watch, and it's actually 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, IGTV also makes it easy to search for your favorite creators. Here's how to search for a channel or video in the IGTV app:

  1. Launch the IGTV app.
  2. Tap the magnifying glass icon where it says Search IGTV.
  3. Tap Search at the top of the screen, and type the name of the channel you're looking for.
  4. Tap the creator in the search results.

This will open the creator's channel on IGTV, so you can watch any videos they've uploaded. If you want to get back to their channel quickly, you can also follow them from right inside the IGTV app.

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 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.

Here's how to follow someone on IGTV:

  1. Launch the IGTV app.
  2. Tap a video you're interested in and it will start playing.
  3. Tap anywhere on the video to reveal the overlay.
  4. Tap the name of the creator.
  5. Tap the + with the person icon next to it.

How to Create Your Own IGTV Channel

Everyone with an Instagram account automatically has an IGTV account, but having an IGTV account doesn't mean you have an IGTV channel. If you want an IGTV channel, you have to enable it and set it up.

how to make an igtv channel
If you have an Instagram account, you can make an IGTV channel for free.

Here's how to create your own IGTV channel:

  1. Launch the IGTV app.
  2. Tap your profile picture.
  3. Read the explanation of IGTV, then tap Next.
  4. Read the information about IGTV videos, then tap Next.
  5. Tap Create Channel.

Creating your own channel on IGTV really is that easy, but just having a channel won't get you very far. The next step is to upload videos for other people to watch.

How to Upload Your Own Videos to IGTV

Uploading videos to your IGTV channel is extremely easy, and you can do it right from your phone. You can also use the website, which is a better option if you're creating longer, scripted videos and edit them prior to uploading. If you're just uploading raw videos, the IGTV app works just fine.

how to upload a video to igtv
Once you have your channel set up, you can upload IGTV videos.

Here's how to upload videos to your IGTV channel:

  1. Launch the IGTV app.
  2. Tap your profile picture.
  3. Tap the + on the right side of the screen, or tap Upload Video if you've never uploaded a video before.
  4. If prompted to allow IGTV access to media on your phone, tap ALLOW.
  5. Locate the video you want to upload, then tap it.
  6. The video will open in a player for you to verify it's the correct one.
  7. Tap Next.
  8. Enter a title and description, then tap Post.

After you tap post, you'll notice a small thumbnail showing the progress of the video upload. When finished, your video will be available on IGTV for everyone to watch.

IGTV places a limit on video length for most creators. Popular creators can upload videos up to an hour in length, while everyone else is limited to 10 minutes. Additionally, hour-long videos can be no larger than 3.6 GB, and 10-minute videos can be no larger than 650MB. If your video is too large, you can use free video editing software to reduce the file size.

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.