Facebook Becoming Online Video Hub

The conversation around online video has traditionally been dominated by YouTube, and rightly so. After all, the Google-owned property claims somewhere between 10 times and 20 times the traffic of its nearest competitor, depending on what metric is applied and who’s doing the measuring.

But Nielsen has compiled an analysis that highlights the rise of Facebook as a major hub for online video, leading the pack in a trend of broader use of video on social-networking sites.

In the past year, Nielsen found that the total time people spent watching videos on Facebook increased 1,840 percent, while the number of unique visitors who viewed a video jumped 548 percent.

“Facebook’s rapid growth in online video during the last year illustrates the site’s evolution from simply a communications focused tool to a media portal,” Jon Gibs, the Nielsen Company’s vice president of media analytics, said in a blog post explaining the new study.

Overall, the social networking sector saw a 98 percent increase in the amount of time users spent watching videos, while the aggregate total of video streams viewed increased 45 percent year-over-year.

“During the past year, online video viewing has become central to the Web experience,” Gibs said. “In conjunction with this increase, we are seeing remarkable growth in video viewing on social networking sites and it is only natural that these two trends would converge in consumers’ minds, making sites like Facebook and Myspace.com, increasingly important distribution points for both consumer and professionally generated video.”

By Nielsen’s tally, Facebook led the social-networking pack in October with 217.8 million videos viewed, easily beating out No. 2 MySpace, which registered 85.2 million views in the month.

Facebook’s strong showing was enough to vault it to third on the overall list of Web video properties, though it has a long way to go to close the gap with the top two.

Second on Nielsen’s overall list of video properties in October was Hulu, which served up 632.7 million videos.

Both remain dwarfed by YouTube, which boasted 6.6 billion video views in the month.

It is worth noting that Nielsen’s figures vary significantly from those offered by comScore, the other leading source of Internet traffic analysis.

In September, the most recent month it has data available, comScore counted more than 10.4 billion videos viewed on YouTube, 37 percent higher than Nielsen’s October count.

For Hulu, the discrepancy ran the other way, with comScore reporting 583.2 million views, 8 percent lower than Nielsen’s tally, though some of that gap can be explained by the firms measuring different months, given that Hulu continues to enjoy a rapid rate of growth.

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