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Hulu a Big Gainer in Latest comScore Stats

Hulu.com, the online video site partnership of NBC Universal and News Corp, saw a surge in traffic last month, according to the latest stats for the United States released today by Web traffic research firm comScore (NASDAQ: SCOR).

In February, as Hulu sparred with other companies over content-sharing, traffic to its site rose 55 percent to 7.8 million unique visitors. comScore credits a TV ad campaign, which it debuted during the Super Bowl and starred actor Alec Baldwin, for the bump in traffic. The increase earned Hulu the No. 2 spot among the research firm's Top-Gaining Properties.

"There are a lot of seasonal trends, but Hulu's growth was the biggest individual story," comScore analyst Andrew Lipsman told InternetNews.com. "What I'll be really curious to see are the stats on video viewing behavior."

comScore will release a report later this month that includes people's behavior at various video-oriented sites, including how long they spent watching videos. Hulu is currently the No. 6 video site in comScore's ratings, trailing YouTube and several big media properties including Yahoo, Viacom, Microsoft and Fox Interactive, which owns MySpace.

The biggest gainer in comScore's February stats was Mozilla, publishers of the Firefox Web browser, which saw an increase of 61 percent, rising to almost 23 million unique visitors in February.

With only 28 days, February traffic was softer than other months, but being in the heart of tax seasons, it's no surprise financial sites did well. Wells Fargo actually tied Hulu for growth on a percentage basis at 55 percent. Tax-related sites rounding out the top ten were IRS.Gov, TaxACT, Intuit and H&R Block.

Valentine's Day showed Hallmark some leave, helping the greeting card and e-card company grab the 6th spot with a 27 growth in unique visitors to 5 million.

Overall, comScore's top 50 sites ranking didn't show a lot of change, with Google, Yahoo and Microsoft sites in the top three spots. The total U.S. Internet audience for February grew very slightly from the previous month, topping 192 million.

Lipsman said he's particularly impressed that Facebook's numbers nearly held steady from January, even with it being a short month. The social networking giant is ranked 10 in the U.S. with 57 million unique visitors in February.

"It's been interesting to see last the steady growth for Facebook the past few months; they've really been ramping up since December," he said.