Hulu Muddles Through Without Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert

Published on April 29, 2010
by Peter Kafka

What happened to Hulu after it said goodbye to Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, two of the video sites’ biggest stars, in March?

Not much. At least not in the first few weeks of their absence, according to Comscore (SCOR).

Check out Comscore’s tally of the top video sites in the U.S. for February:

And now for March:

Stewart and Colbert left Hulu, the joint venture site owned by GE’s NBC (GE), Disney’s ABC (DIS) and News Corp.’s Fox (NWS), on March 10. But note that Hulu actually streamed about 10 percent more videos that month than it did in February.

Meanwhile streams at Viacom (VIA) sites, now the only places that can host clips like Stewart’s Apple (AAPL) smackdown, increased as well. Perhaps some of that is because Hulu has been good about the breakup, and is directing Daily Show and Colbert Report seekers directly to Viacom’s sites. Which they’re not required to do.

But for whatever reason, it looks like Viacom’s decision to yank the clips — or Hulu’s decision not pay more for them, depending on your interpretation — made sense for both sides.

Some of the requisite caveats: This is just the first sample, and it’s not apples to apples, because February is the shortest month, etc. And overall video traffic appears to have increased around the Web month-to-month. Also, Hulu has been hovering around the billion video per month mark for some time now, so perhaps this its natural level.

(A Hulu aside — how are they possibly getting the $200 million-plus run rate they boasted about earlier this year? Last week I sat down and watched an entire episode of “Lost”, which should be their most premium inventory. The show started off promisingly, with a Verizon sponsorship, but by the end of it I was watching ads for 5-Hour Energy and then what appeared to be some non-profit giveaways. That can’t possibly be right, can it?)

And while we’re looking at the numbers: Note that Vevo, the “Hulu for music videos”, is back in the top 10. And, as always, that Google’s YouTube (GOOG) towers above every other site, by a huge margin.

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