Closing out the week, I missed this blurb from Information Week yesterday reporting YouTube's staggering dominance of broadband video traffic. New numbers out from Hitwise show that in May '08 YouTube garnered 75% of the 10 million visits to 63 video sites that Hitwise is tracking. That's 9 times the traffic of #2 MySpaceTV and more than 20 times that of the #3 site which is Google's other video property (remember it?)
According to Hitwise YouTube's share rose 26% from a year ago compared with drops by all the others in the top 5 sites except Veoh, which rose by 32% from a year ago.
It's just mind-boggling to think that one site could have such market share, particularly when a lot of the networks' programs cannot be found there. I think it speaks to how strong users' appetites are for UGC and viral content remain, how YouTube has become a de facto video platform for lots of smaller players in the industry (and consumers) and how the company is likely beginning to enjoy some early success with its partners' channels.
A few months ago, in "YouTube: Over-the-Top's Best Friend" I wrote that YouTube is quickly becoming the perfect ally for all those makers of new broadband-to-the-TV devices. These companies desperately need content and credible brands to help pull through consumer demand. YouTube offers both. In this sense, YouTube has huge value yet to be tapped (of course demonstrating that it can monetize its massive audience wouldn't hurt its partnership value...)
However, looked at another way, YouTube's success should be very encouraging to other players. To start with, YouTube is doing a marvelous job educating the world about the virtues of broadband video. And while YouTube is the market's 800 pound gorilla, it is still leaving key opportunities open for other players to differentiate themselves. Potential areas include high-quality delivery, ad-based and paid monetization and offering content that YouTube simply doesn't have (examples: Comedy Central programs like "The Daily Show" and "Colbert Report")
Volumes are yet to be written about YouTube. Whether it turns its market-leading traffic into a financially-explosive franchise or forever remains a red-ink spewing blip on Google's P&L is yet to be seen. Either way, when the history of broadband video is written, YouTube will be featured prominently.