Facebook has experienced tremendous growth in the number of users watching video on its site, putting it just behind YouTube and Hulu in October.
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
YouTube might still reign supreme in online video, but the big surprise coming out of Nielsen's VideoCensus release on Thursday is that Facebook is now the world's third most popular place to view video online.
According to Nielsen's latest VideoCensus numbers, which look at the number of video views in October, YouTube serviced over 6.6 billion streams. In a distant second, Hulu offered up over 632 million video streams. But it was Facebook with over 217 million streams in October that easily beat out Bing, Yahoo, and several other online sites. In September, Facebook was ranked tenth in total streams.
In October, Facebook placed second in total number of unique viewers: over 31.5 million. YouTube had almost 106 million unique viewers during October. Hulu placed fifth with 13.4 million viewers.
According to Nielsen, the amount of time Web users spent viewing videos on social-networking sites increased 98 percent year over year. In October 2008, users watched 503.8 million minutes of video; they watched 999.4 million video minutes in October this year. That growth far outpaced growth in number of online video streams as a whole, which grew 26 percent year over year.
"During the past year, online video viewing has become central to the Web experience," Nielsen Vice President of Media Analytics Jon Gibs said in a statement. "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."
But it was Facebook, not MySpace, that led the way in video streams on social-networking sites, nearly tripling MySpace's 85.2 million streams during October.
According to Nielsen, the "total time spent viewing video on Facebook" grew by 1,840 percent year over year. The number of unique viewers grew 548 percent over the same period. Total streams increased by 987 percent year over year.
"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," Gibs said. "Social networking sites are evolving from a venue for catching up with friends to a platform for personal expression, allowing consumers to share their experiences in the full variety of content formats available online."