There has been a bit a chatter on NewTeeVee (here), AllthingsD (here and then here), and Venture Beat (here) about online video viewing statistics in October and November 2008 (relevant Comscore releases here and here). A lot of attention paid to Hulu in particular (and whether it was growing or shrinking in the wake of the election).
Turns out people were right to focus on Hulu, but they paid attention to the wrong thing.
I spent a bit of time the past week looking at and parsing the data, and these numbers jumped off the screen and grabbed me by the throat:
Simple, very important, lesson here: videos embeds = distribution. Both YouTube and Hulu expand their reach by using embed codes. Their users are their distribution channels.
Hulu has effectively quadrupled its reach — it gets only 5 million people to Hulu.com, but more than 20 million watch Hulu videos around the web. Put another way: it gets only 1/10th the traffic of the Turner properties (mainly CNN.com), but gets more more overall reach (traffic) to its videos. Astounding. And very much under-reported. But perhaps not surprising if you were reading Umair Haque in 2005 and 2006.
The data above gets even more interesting when I cross-reference it with the most recent version of our Vodpod Sitegeist that we posted just last week. This lists the top 100 sites from which our users — tens of thousands of bloggers, Facebook members, Myspace users, Twitterers, and so on — collect video. Not one major media brand website is represented in the Top 10. No MTV, no CNN, no MSNBC, no ESPN. The closest is Hulu, which has risen to #13 (and which I firmly expect will crack the top 10 later this year).
Instead, in addition to YouTube, Google Video, Myspace, you see scrappy folks like Daily Motion, blip.tv, and Vimeo in the Top 10. They have figured out the 21st centure equivalent of cable carriage.
This is all very ironic given media giants like Viacom and Turner were distribution, not programming, empires first and foremost. They hustled for space and got carriage for MTV and CNN on the nascent cable nets, then worried about filling in their channels with programming and advertising.
As I wrote on the Vodpod blog last week, some media companies are getting in the game. Viacom has at least begun making strides to understand this.
Turner Networks and Disney, though, seem stuck in the stone age. Particularly sad is CNN; they appear to understand the idea of allowing their users to redistribute their videos, they offer something that looks like an embed code — but it’s a crippled version of an embed code, it doesn’t really work, and so they get very little re-distribution. With the exception of ESPN, most Disney sites (for example, ABC News) don’t even bother to offer embed codes.
Maybe it’s just not a priority for them. I’m sure there are strong voices inside both organizations who view things like redistribution through viewers and users as just one more instance of Web 2.0 fluffery. But the world of video is going to evolve and change far more rapidly and dramatically in the next 10 years than it has in the past 10. The cable and satellite television business is going to look like the newspaper business by 2018, and maybe even by 2012.
Media companies like Turner and Disney need to figure this out now; or other folks are going to have taken their place.
*The Comscore “MediaMetrix” service measures US visitors to a specific domain; its “VideoMetrix” services measures reach to all videos from a specific source, including reach to videos both the source domain (Hulu.com) plus embeds.