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YouTube Drives Video Viewing to Record Month

People in the U.S. viewed a record 16.8 billion videos online in April, a 16 percent increase over March, due in large part to a "surge" in usage at YouTube, according to comScore.

Google sites again ranked first with 6.8 billion videos viewed, for a commanding 41 percent of the market and a 15 percent increase compared with March. More than 99 percent of Google sites' videos are viewed at YouTube, comScore said Thursday.

News Corp.'s Fox Interactive Media, which includes MySpace, came in a distant second with 513 million videos, or 3.1 percent of the total. Hulu, co-owned by NBC Universal, News Corp. and Providence Equity Partners, ranked third with 397 million videos, or 2.4 percent. Yahoo sites, in fourth place, had 355 million videos, or 2.1 percent of the pie.

Rounding out the top 10, each with less than 2 percent share, were Viacom, Microsoft sites, Turner Network, CBS Interactive, Disney Online and AOL.

In terms of unique viewers, almost 152 million people watched an average of 111 videos, or 6.4 hours, each in April. Google sites -- again, mostly YouTube -- attracted a record 107.9 million unique viewers, followed by Fox Interactive Media with 58.8 million, Yahoo sites with 45.4 million and Hulu with 40.1 million. The duration of the average video watched in April was 3.5 minutes.

Video sites come in different flavors. For example, YouTube is still primarily a place for people to post and share amateur videos, while Hulu is focused on commercial, professional content, like TV shows and full-length movies. Yahoo's strategy is to weave videos into its various sites and services, to enrich them in their particular contexts, and not necessarily to provide stand-alone clips. Other sites fall somewhere in the middle, with a mix of these approaches.

Although YouTube draws by far the most viewers, Google has struggled to generate advertising revenue on a par with the site's massive popularity, because big marketers remain skeptical about promoting their brands alongside amateur videos of questionable quality and taste. For this reason, the jury is still out on whether Google overpaid for YouTube when it acquired the site for US$1.65 billion in October 2006.

On the other hand, Hulu, despite its smaller user base, seems to be succeeding in attracting big advertisers who feel more comfortable with its professionally produced content and its tight control over the content featured.

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