Hulu Rides 'SNL’ Wave

Hulu, the online-video joint venture of NBC Universal and News Corp., tallied 24 million unique U.S. Internet viewers in October, about double its reach the prior month, according to Internet measurement firm ComScore.

The site served 235 million video views in the month, making Hulu the sixth-largest online video destination less than a year after its official launch this past March.

Overall, according to ComScore’s Video Metrix service, more than 147 million U.S. Internet users viewed 13.5 billion online videos in October, up 45% from a year ago.

Hulu’s viewership apparently surged in large part because of the popularity of Saturday Night Live skits — featuring Tina Fey parodying GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin — leading up to the November election, ComScore senior analyst Andrew Lipsman said.

“We did see a big spike, driven by the SNL content,” he said.

While Hulu’s numbers may decline somewhat through the end of 2008 after the election and fall TV shows have premiered, Lipsman added, “once we see a hockey-stick in video consumption, usage over the long term tends to not trend back to previous levels.”

About three-fourths of Hulu’s viewers came via partner sites, according to an analysis of ComScore’s figures, given that had 5.3 million unique visitors for October. Hulu has distribution agreements with major Internet sites including Yahoo, MSN, MySpace, AOL and Comcast’s

Hulu hosts more than 30,000 videos, with full episodes and clips from about 1,000 TV shows and 400 movies.

Lipsman noted that the ComScore “unique viewer” metric aggregates a site’s unique visitors with those reached through third-party distribution.

Of the top-ranked sites, Hulu had the highest average length of video viewed, 11.6 minutes. Overall the average length for Internet videos viewed in October was 3.0 minutes.

Google’s video sites again ranked No. 1, serving about 5.4 billion videos to 100 million unique viewers, with more than 98% of that traffic to YouTube, according to comScore.

Fox Interactive Media (which includes MySpace) was second with 519.9 million videos, followed by Yahoo! sites with 363.4 million, Viacom with 305.3 million and Microsoft with 286.5 million.