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Vidmeter: Viacom Videos Were Only 2% of YouTube Views

Vidmeter Incorporated has published an in-depth study of the number and type of YouTube videos that have been removed at the request of copyright holders.  Importantly, the study analyzes not only the number of videos removed but the percentage of total YouTube views that such videos accounted for prior to their removal.

After the Viacom lawsuit, I scanned Vidmeter’s “Top Videos” in an attempt to see whether Viacom (and other big media) videos constituted a large percentage of online video views.  This review suggested that they did not–and, therefore, that Google/YouTube had a lot more leverage in the YouTube-Big Media negotiations than was commonly thought.  Vidmeter’s analysis (which is based on a sample rather than the whole site) goes far beyond my initial scan, but the conclusions are the same:

  • Videos removed at the request of copyright owners accounted for only 9% of total YouTube videos.
  • Removed videos accounted for only 6% of total YouTube video views.  This finding is the opposite of consensus, which assumes that Big Media videos account for a small percentage of total videos, but a large percentage of views.
  • Of the removed videos, Viacom’s accounted for the largest share of views (2% of total YouTube views), and the second-largest share of videos (1%).  Time Warner topped the latter category, also with 1%.
  • Most of the videos removed (for Viacom and other Big Media companies) were music videos.  Again, this is in direct contrast to the common assumption that they are Daily Show, Colbert, etc.
  • Disney’s most-viewed removed video, with 430,000 views, was “USC Cheerleader extreme wedgie.”

Vidmeter did find that a handful of full-length TV shows were removed, but relatively few.  (These also received relatively few views before their removal).

On balance, the Vidmeter analysis supports the following theses:

  • Traditional media videos make up only a small percentage of YouTube views.
  • NBCFoxTube, the hypothetical consortium, even if successful, won’t dent YouTube’s growth.
  • Online video viewers usually watch short clips, not full shows.

12 thoughts on “Vidmeter: Viacom Videos Were Only 2% of YouTube Views”

  1. Thanks for posting these stats. Very interesting stuff.

    However, when reading it over, I noticed that these stats were based on “removed videos.” The major problem with YouTube is the videos that have NOT been removed. So, if the removed ones constituted 9 percent of vides, and they have only removed (let’s say) a fifth of pirated clips — this does not look good.

    These stats, when looked at more closely, seem to suggest that Shelly Palmer’s analysis (over on Media 3.0) we accurate — without the pirated videos, YouTube has no business.

    – Phil

  2. Phil,

    Thanks for the thoughtful response. Tou are correct that the Vidmeter study did not account for videos that haven’t been removed. This said, I think it is very unlikely that these videos account for a significantly greater portion of all YouTube views.

    Right now, Viacom is presumably devoting enormous resources to searching YouTube with the aim of spotting copyright violations to use as ammo in the lawsuit. Other analyses, meanwhile, have shown that Viacom’s traffic to its own video sites did not increase substantially in the weeks after Google removed 100,000 clips (which it presumably would have, if these clips were what YouTube viewers really wanted to watch). And, perhaps most importantly, Vidmeter’s daily “top videos” do not show greater Viacom video popularity than the percentages here would suggest (and these surveys would catch popular copyrighted videos that weren’t removed).

    I think it’s very unlikely that the remaining Viacom/Big Media content accounts for a big percentage of YouTube views. So I disagree completely with Shelly.

  3. Henry,

    Great information. I’m not surprised by the numbers and actually view them as being pretty high, not low. Most mainstream TV watchers barely know about Youtube. Example: my wife watches 2-3 hours of TV each night but has never looked at a video on YouTube. She’s a general Internet user – not a power user.

    It also points to an ominous conclusion about how well Google will be able to monetize the traffic. Long tail video content will likely monetize like long tail AdSense content. I think Google is hoping to get a critical mass of “all” video so that they can auction video ads against a wide breadth of video searches. With all the big guys ripping out their content this will be difficult to accomplish.

  4. The big issue for Viacom is that people like me who go to you tube 5 times a day to check fave videos and stats could not help but click a colbert report or stewart video perfectly served up.

    I cant edxplain it but I could care less about going to Viacom’s website – ever.

    I can’t be alone

    good stuff henry

  5. You know I could get into what I think is an extremely high, very troubling number for YouTube–nine percent–but this once again would be missing the forest for the trees in the whole debate.

    One thing Henry touched upon is that people don’t watch whole episodes of anything on YouTube, they watch clips. This is part of a more general part of the Laws of Online Video: it’s a furniture problem. In other words, watching a TV program is a NON-interactive activity that involves passively watching while physically lounging. This is in sharp contrast to being hunched over a computer sitting on a desk with one hand on the mouse controlling the flow of an online video. Of poor quality. On a tiny screen. By yourself.

    Clearly if there’s a crossover play involved where Google can try to get YouTube into the living room then they might have something, but satellites and cables are still lightyears ahead of the Internet pipe when it comes to BROADcasting. Tivo (DVRs) checkmates any advantages the Internet might have in terms of convenience.

    YouTube might be a MySpace-like phenomenon for online entertainment, and it’s clearly provided a NEW kind of entertainment for millions (Mentos and Pepsi oh my), but nobody’s going to throw out their real TVs anytime soon and the actual competition to watching TV shows on a PC will remain very tiny.

    So… how then is GOOG supposed to make any money off of this thing? All people seem to be able to talk about is how they might, or might not lose a ton of money in lawsuits. The upside to all of this risk is just not there.


  6. Henry,

    I appreciate this post but I think you’re missing the point.

    1. Choose any music video and look for it on YouTube. If it’s been removed, chances are there is another copy of it if not 10 others. If only 6% are removed, that probably means another 18% are copyright violations and need to be removed.

    2. Go look at the most popular videos and with the exception of lonelygirl15, you will find that 90% of them are:
    – Music videos
    – Sports clips
    – News clips
    – Show clips (e.g. Simpsons, Family Guy, South Park)

    Those are all copyrighted and those are the videos generating tremendous page views for YouTube.

    As Mark Twain said there are three types of lies – true lies, damn lies, and statistics. Your statistics miss the point.

    YouTube is still stealing value and while Viacom may be overclaiming, it has no choice as long as “experts” interpret such data at face value.

    Go use YouTube like an average 20-year old before jumping to conclusions.

    The long tail is there but it’s not as big as you think.

  7. Thanks for the analysis – it is clearly revealing.

    What would be interesting to understand is the role copyrighted materials play in driving people to visit YouTube initially. It is possible that people watch a wide array of non-infringing materials once they get to YouTube, but the visit was initiated by a desire to see a particular “Daily Show” or “South Park” clip. I’m not sure how the courts would view the weight of non-infringing use if infringing use was shown to be a key driver for it.

    Seeing the statistics grouped by visits, or by referrer search terms could probably shed some light on this.

    Thanks again for sharing you insight.

  8. The stats/conclusions are skewed:

    a. Once the video comes off, it stops getting hits. Meanwhile the videos it is being compared to keep getting hits. Apples and oranges. Would like to see the extrapolated data based on hits received during first x hours that each video was on site pre-takedown.
    b. The videos that are taken down go elsewhere.
    c. Most big media videos are not taken down and are in the top 100. We are defaulting these to the “long tail” category, simply because they have not been requested to be removed. That is not accurate, and makes the “traditional media makes up small percentage of total YouTube conclusions” erroneous.

  9. Good call gzino… survior bias!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    You really see there are a bunch of journalists/cheer-leaders mindless trumpeting this flawed “research”

  10. It’s also important to define “views”. Does the analysis put the same weight on a video that’s watched for 5 seconds (ie until the viewer realizes it’s not worth watching) as say a full Colbert report that’s watched for 10 minutes…

  11. i definitely agree that watching full length clips on the internet is not here yet and most clips that i watch at least are highlights only of portions of copyright material, highlights of sports clips or some viral user generated/uploaded clip which we all have been sent. maybe the solution is making users sign off on a model or property release form bf they upload like they do on stock photo/video sites. but that may be impossible and slow this content explosion. i’m not really for that but there may have to be some accountability/reprecussions that are passed on to the user who uploads content that is not his.

    i think that we can all agree that video search, indexing and copyright detection is desperately needed to avoid all this confusion and make sure the royalties, if any are made, are tracked and paid to the rightful owner.

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