YouTube’s Growth Continues as Battles Loom

NEW YORK As YouTube faces increased pressure from content owners, the site has solidified its lead as the top online video source.

According to Nielsen/NetRatings data from January, YouTube’s audience keeps growing, adding 3.8 million U.S. users in the month. Those visitors are remaining longer, too, over 41 minutes, compared to a little less than 39 minutes in December.

Some content owners have played hardball with YouTube lately. Viacom early this month ordered the site to take down clips from The Daily Show and other programs that are popular with YouTube’s audience.

Yesterday, Viacom struck a deal with YouTube competitor Joost to feature Viacom programming on its digital video platform.

Yet YouTube’s position as the top online video site seems solid. In January, it dwarfed the competitors, drawing nearly twice as large an audience as Google Video and three times that of MySpace, the No. 3 video site.

Other competitors mostly stagnated. MSN Video drew 12.2 million visitors, up 100,000, while Yahoo Video lost 300,000, drawing just 5.8 million. YouTube owner Google gave what is likely a further boost to YouTube by adding links to its videos to Google Video search results.

YouTube-like sites still draw small audiences., for instance, attracted 3.3 million visitors in January and Metacafe had 2.9 million.