YouTube Sees Big Gains From ‘SNL’ Viral

NEW YORK As media companies experiment with releasing their content in various forms, the power of Internet viral distribution is evidenced by the sharp growth at YouTube.com.

The video-sharing site saw its weekly unique audience spike from 624,000 for the week ending Dec. 18 to 2.3 million for the week ending Jan. 1 after it carried a much-discussed Saturday Night Live “Lazy Sunday” rap-video skit that spoofs two geeks’ day at the movies. NBC sought to capitalize on the buzz by releasing a show clip to outlets like YouTube and Apple’s iTunes Music Store, where bloggers linked to it.

YouTube is already the fastest-growing video site online, according to Nielsen//NetRatings. Its monthly visitors more than doubled from October to November, reaching 1.1 million in November. The site began operating in February.

Unlike portal video sites, YouTube leans on user-submitted video, rather than distribution deals with major media companies. In November 2005, Sequoia Capital, an early Google backer, invested $3.5 million in the San Mateo, Calif., company.