NBC Uni's Web stars align

Separate events fuel record traffic at trio of sites

The Peacock felt gale-force winds beneath its wings this week online.

A trio of unrelated events conspired to give NBC Universal record traffic at three Web locations: CNBC.com, NBC.com and the iTunes Store.

Instability on Wall Street this week made CNBC.com a prime destination, delivering the site's largest audience ever, according to internal data provided by Omniture.

It was Tina Fey's "Saturday Night Live" spoof of vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin on Saturday that gave NBC.com its most-watched viral video ever. The video not only topped such past favorites as "D*** in a Box" and "Lazy Sunday" but managed to outdo copies uploaded to YouTube.

Users of Apple's popular digital storefront had no problem relocating NBC Uni's TV shows now that a new deal between the companies last week restored episodes. More than 1 million downloads for NBC Uni TV properties have been tallied since then, according to Apple.

Over at CNBC.com, Monday's market meltdown triggered a mad rush to the Web site, which exceeded 1 million unique visitors for the first time. CNBC.com tallied 14.6 million page views that day, a 26% increase over the site's previous best. Uniques fell slightly on Tuesday and Wednesday, but page views climbed 6% on Tuesday.

Research firm Hitwise found that U.S. users Monday spent more time on average on CNBC.com — 18 minutes — than they did on competitors including Yahoo Finance, CBS Marketwatch, WSJ.com and Bloomberg.

Fey's mimicry of Palin has been a barnburner for NBC.com, garnering 5.7 million views as of Wednesday, according to internal NBC data. That is far and away the most popular video on the site, easily exceeding the second-place "Box," which collected slightly more than 1 million views on NBC.com.

The disparity is largely explained by NBC Uni's aggressive efforts to keep illegal copies off of YouTube, where past sensations like "Box" were consumed in greater numbers than on NBC.com, which can serve ads along with the video.

On iTunes, about 30% of the top-selling episodes and season passes now comprise shows either airing on or produced by NBC Uni. The conglomerate pulled its TV programming off iTunes last summer in an effort to get more pricing flexibility, which it got some small measure of last week with new multiepisode packages and $2.99 high-definition episodes.

Also notable about the renewed strength of NBC Uni programming on iTunes is that much of its fall-season fare, expected to be a driver for digital consumption, has yet to premiere. NBC Uni reportedly accounted for 40% of iTunes' video sales before its pullout.

Episodes of "The Office," "Heroes" and "SNL" are among NBC Uni's top sellers. (partialdiff)