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Is Hulu Watched More Than Time Warner Cable?

According to a new survey, Hulu, the online video TV channel, just beat the viewing statistics of Time Warner Cable for July. Does that mean Hulu's now the second most important TV "channel" in the U.S.? Nearly...but not quite.

The data comes from Silicon Alley Insider, and partly from Comscore, and it's pretty clear actually, as the graph below ably demonstrates. Hulu was watched at least once by 38 million people in July, whereas Time Warner Cable was viewed by some 34 million souls. Hulu was only beaten by satellite broadcaster DirecTV's 47 million viewers and Comcast's 62 million, when you look at the raw viewer statistics.

Hulu vs. Pay TV

Since TWC is the U.S.'s second most popular cable provider, it's pretty easy to suggest that Hulu is now as important a content delivery system to U.S. entertainment consumers as cable TV. But you'd be kidding yourself—and not simply because Hulu is free while Time Warner Cable earns money from every subscriber.

Comscore's survey also reveals another interesting statistic: Of the 27-plus billion videos watched online in July, around 9 billion of them (42% audience share) were via Google sites—meaning YouTube. Hulu snuck in with just 457 million video views and a 2.1% audience share. This makes it clear that YouTube is far more dominant in the online video game. And while Hulu and YouTube cater for two slightly different audiences—YouTube for casual video viewing, and Hulu for more conventional TV show viewing—it certainly puts Hulu's popularity in context. And here's the killer stat: "The average Hulu viewer watched 12.0 videos, totaling 1 hour and 13 minutes of videos per viewer." That basically means Hulu viewers weren't really dialing in repeatedly to watch multiple TV shows—which is the viewing model that pay-TV cable and satellite TV viewers tend to follow.

And since millions of repeat viewers is the meat and drink of advertising companies, it means the majority of ad revenue is going to go where that audience still is—which rules out Hulu. For the time being at least. Since the service is obviously on a rising curve, it really might not be long before viewers use Hulu as an alternative for at least some of their TV viewing, and as soon as the statistics support that you can be sure the ad people will start to pay attention. Then Hulu really could be more important than TWC.

[via Silicon Alley Insider]