Instagram crosses 1 billion monthly active accounts, unveils long-form video

  • Facebook-owned Instagram has previously dealt in still images and videos of up to 60 seconds.
  • The new feature stands as a challenge to Alphabet's YouTube and its established social media influencer community.
  • Competition for eyes and ads keeps heating up as Alphabet, Snap, Twitter and Facebook's core platform all ratchet up original and curated content.
Instagram co-founder and CEO, Kevin Systrom.
Vivien Killilea
Instagram co-founder and CEO, Kevin Systrom.

Instagram is officially diving into long-form video.

The new video hub, called IGTV, will host vertical videos as long as 60 minutes. That makes the platform more suited to mobile use than YouTube.

"It's mobile first. It's simple and it's quality. That's IGTV," CEO Kevin Systrom said.

Instagram announced the new video hub with the help of creators and social media stars — teasing new creator shows to be launched on IGTV. Videos will be curated into channels, similar to Snapchat's discover feature. Any user can upload videos.

IGTV will be ad-free for now as Instagram focuses on engagement, but Systrom said ads are a possibility in the future.

Systrom also said Instagram now has 1 billion monthly active accounts. That's up from the 800 million reported in September.

The Facebook-owned photo-sharing app has previously dealt in still images and videos of up to 60 seconds. CNBC earlier reported Instagram was planning to roll out a longer video format in a challenge to Alphabet's YouTube and its established social media influencer community.

The new feature could keep users in the app longer and help Instagram capture coveted advertising dollars. Competition for eyes and ads keeps heating up as Alphabet, Snap, Twitter and Facebook's core platform all ratchet up original and curated content.

When asked how Instagram will monitor for controversial content on IGTV, Systrom said that's something the company already has to do with the main app. He said, however, that Instagram is staffing up to make sure it has enough resources to monitor this new content. Systrom didn't specify how many people are on this moderation team.

Instagram said IGTV will be available as a standalone app as well as its flagship app.

Systrom said Instagram doesn't expect much interaction between the Instagram feed and IGTV. He explained that when users scroll through their feeds, they don't necessarily want to watch a 10 minute video.

Users can now update their Instagram apps and start watching long form content. Instagram said the standalone IGTV app will roll out in the next few weeks on Android and iOS.

Correction: Instagram announced it had passed 1 billion monthly active accounts. However, because one user can have multiple accounts, this does not mean it had passed 1 billion monthly active users.

— CNBC's Paayal Zaveri and Christine Wang contributed to this report.