MSN video streams increased in February


NEW YORK -- Strong interest in the Super Bowl commercials keyed a sizable increase in video streams for MSN/Windows Live in February.

According to Nielsen Online's Video Census metric, the nearly 164 million video streams for the MSN/Windows Live brand were up over 23% for February as compared to January and nearly 47% for the month as compared to December. The brand ranked fourth in the category for February, passing Viacom's Nickelodeon Kids and Family Network, which was down 9.6% and slipped to fifth place.

Google's YouTube, though, is still the dominant leader in the category with more than 2.5 billion streams than its closest competitor, News Corp.'s Fox Interactive Media, which houses MySpace. YouTube and FIM saw increases of 13.6% and 7.7%, respectively, for February with Yahoo ranking third, down 18% for February.

Rob Bennett, GM, entertainment, video & sports for MSN, said the Super Bowl commercials, which first appeared on the portal after the game on February 3, were "by far" the biggest driver of traffic to the brand for the month. Citing internal statistics, Bennett said that streams of the commercials, which were provided through the portal's partnership with Fox Sports, grew 60% year-over-year.

Bennett also pointed to strong numbers in February for videos relating to Lindsay Lohan's nude photo spread in New York Magazine, the Democratic debates and various viral clips. Content exclusive to MSN, like offerings from Ford Models and on-demand video from Clive Davis' pre-Grammy party on February 9, were also popular with the brand's users.

Overall, said Bennett, the growth speaks to the growing popularity of video across the Web. He said users now expect to see video online and MSN is responding to this.

"We are seeing pretty dramatic growth just as we continue to push video as a pervasive media type across the entire network," Bennett said. "It's becoming less the destination and more just like pictures and text."

Now that the WGA strike is over and networks have fully embraced video on the Web, Bennett said he expects to see the upward trend continue.

"All the networks starting to unlock their content has shined an even brighter spotlight on the online video space," Bennett said, "and everyone's benefiting from that."

MSN is a distribution arm of the recently launched Hulu, the joint online video venture from NBC Universal and News Corp., and it is also part of the CBS Audience Network.

Nielsen Online is owned by the Nielsen Co., parent company of The Hollywood Reporter.