Many media companies may be slowly wading into Instagram’s 3-month-old long-form video platform, IGTV, but not Meredith. The magazine publisher is developing a slate of 10 original series for IGTV, the first of which will premiere later this year, according to Andrew Snyder, svp of video at Meredith.
Parents magazine will premiere a show starring undisclosed celebrity moms on IGTV. EatingWell will premiere a vegan cooking show; Travel + Leisure will air a travel show starring Instagram influencers touring the cities where they live; and Real Simple’s beauty director will host a beauty show offering makeup tips for commuters.
Meredith decided to invest in producing original programming for Instagram’s IGTV after surveying the digital video market and deciding that there is “no single platform where everybody goes to watch video,” said Snyder.
YouTube with its 1.8 billion monthly logged-in users may take issue with that assessment, but many of Meredith’s publications already operate YouTube channels and produce shows for Facebook’s would-be YouTube rival Watch. So now Meredith is looking to lay the groundwork on IGTV in case Instagram’s long-form video platform ends up becoming the one platform that finally legitimately rivals YouTube.
“In part because it’s early days [for IGTV], it’s a great opportunity to move quickly, develop programming designed for that platform and establish a leadership position,” said Snyder.
IGTV has yet to prove it can provide a big-enough audience, not to mention direct revenue, for publishers. In light of that, Meredith’s commitment to make not one but 10 shows for the platform may seem especially aggressive. And that’s on purpose. Meredith has been trying to accelerate the growth of its digital business. That was a big reason why the company acquired Time Inc. last year and has been making video a more important part of its pitch to advertisers this year, such as by extending its sales guarantee to video ads.
Meredith will present the IGTV slate it will present at NewFronts West on Oct. 9.
Meredith’s investment in episodic shows on IGTV may be coming at an opportune time, given that Instagram has seen IGTV viewers gravitate toward serialized content. Meredith is still determining how it will schedule the airing of its shows’ episodes, but Snyder said episode lengths will range somewhere under 10 minutes but above three minutes.
However, because IGTV remains a nascent platform, there’s no clear path for Meredith to recoup the undisclosed amount of money it is investing in the IGTV shows. Instagram has yet to introduce any program for media companies and others to make money from their IGTV videos, and it hasn’t even extended its branded-content tagging tool to IGTV, which has made some publishers hesitant to ask advertisers to sponsor their IGTV videos. Nonetheless, Meredith plans to sell advertisers on sponsoring its IGTV shows, said Marla Newman, svp of digital sales at Meredith.
Advertisers and agencies attending NewFronts West are likely to leave their wallets back at the office, given that the event takes place outside of an obvious deal-making window. But to the extent that they are open to doing deals as a result of the two-day event, they are keeping an eye out for newer opportunities to reach people, such as IGTV, than established options like an OTT app’s live programming, according to Deutsch LA media director Lauren Tetuan. “A show for IGTV seems pretty interesting to me because, I take it, there’s a lot of people that have been looking to see how publishers will be using that platform and how much it will be utilized. So I feel like hearing plans for that sounds pretty interesting. More live on people’s OTT doesn’t grasp my attention the same way,” she said.
Of course, if advertisers are interested in live digital programming, then Meredith has that on offer too. In addition to its IGTV slate, Meredith’s NewFronts West presentation will showcase live programming on its streaming video network PeopleTV. In the first quarter of 2019, the company expects to double the amount of live video aired on PeopleTV to at least four hours per day, said Snyder.
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