2010 – the ascent of Hulu (in the shadow of Google)

Jim O'NeilEach month comScore lays out the numbers for online video viewership, and each month Google sites rip off huge gains that dwarf the pretty solid gains that other video properties see. It's a headline writer's nightmare ... "Google on top -- again." Boring.

But it's hard to look at the numbers and not be impressed with the growth Google and YouTube (which generally makes up 99 percent of the Google totals) have shown month in and month out.

The surprise of 2009 -- and, perhaps, the online video property to watch in 2010 -- is Hulu. Granted Hulu hasn't discovered the magic potion that will make it profitable, but what it has done is slowly, but surely, become the second most viewed video streaming site in the U.S.

In November, it delivered 924 million online video views ... up from 856 million in October, and a stunning increase of more than 300 percent from the 227 million online video views it had in November 2008. Compare that to Viacom Digital, the third most popular U.S. video hub last month, which saw Y-o-Y growth of "just" 53 percent to 499 million online video views. Google, meanwhile, saw 139 percent growth to a 12.2 billion online video views, 39 percent of the total online video views in the U.S., last month. (By the way, for the purpose of scale, the Google numbers for last month equate to roughly 96 percent of the total online video views in the U.S. during November 2008.)

But, back to Hulu. Not only has it shown strong growth in online video views, it's also growing significantly faster -- in terms of unique viewers -- than Google, or any of the other Top 10 online video properties comScore reported on. Year-to-year, Hulu has doubled its amount of unique viewers, to 44 million from 22 million, and the average numbers of videos they've watched, from 10.1 to 21.1. Google -- and here are ridiculous numbers again -- had 129 million UVs, up nearly 32 percent from 98 million a year ago; Googlers watched 94.7 videos each in March, up from 52.2 a year ago.

Of course, Hulu's future is up in the air, a bit, as new soon-to-be-co-owner Comcast weighs its eventual fate once the cable giant wraps up its deal to buy NBC Universal.Depending on regulatory issues, that could take up to a year. But would Comcast pull the plug? Time will tell.

Forgive me if I wander a bit off course here, but there are a coupe of other numbers that pop when you compare comScore figures from this November to those of a year ago. Hulu and Google, obviously, aren't the only ones seeing gains, although none of the remaining Top 10 come close to those numbers. What's interesting, too, is the uptake of online video in general (I know, I'm preaching to the choir, but bear with me).

There were 146 million people who watched 12.7 billion online videos in the U.S. in November 2008. Last month those numbers grew to 170 million and 31 billion respectively. The number of videos each viewer watched increased from 87 to 182, and the average length of videos grew from 3.1 minutes in November 2008 to 4 minutes this year. One more number? OK. The average amount of time each viewer spent watching videos increased from 4.6 hours a year ago to 12.2 hours last month. Wow.-Jim