Facebook Surpasses Yahoo! For Video

Facebook has leap-frogged Yahoo! to become the second biggest video viewing site in the United States, behind Google.

The August 2010 online video viewing figures from comScore suggest 58.6 million unique viewers for Facebook, for a total of 243 million viewing sessions. Google, which owns YouTube.com, ranks number one with 146.3 million unique viewers and 1.9 billion viewing sessions. Yahoo! is relegated to third place with 53.9 million viewers, followed by VEVO with 45.4 million.

However, Facebook lost out to Yahoo! in terms of how long people spent watching video, averaging 20.5 minutes per viewer for the month compared with 31.6 minutes per view for Yahoo!.

Commercially it was a different story. Hulu, which didn’t even make the top 10 in terms of unique viewers, was number one for video advertising. The site served 789,859 video ads, a frequency of 30.2 per viewer, giving it a reach of 8.8% of the population. Google came fifth and Facebook and Yahoo! didn’t even place.

It was predicted earlier this month that Facebook would soon overtake Yahoo! as a video referral site and that it is gaining ground on Google. Both Facebook and Twitter are catching up to search engines for video referrals. These results are not surprising. Facebook is growing, the market for online videos is growing and people are increasingly sharing interesting content within their own social networks. The problem is whether Facebook can make any money off video.

Facebook may be able to monetize the videos at some point, by running pre-roll advertising or text links. But it faces a few hurdles in doing so. Firstly most of the content is embedded but not hosted on its own site, so any advertising is usually from a third party such as YouTube. While Facebook could make a concerted push to get people to upload video to the site, as they do with photos, this would result in huge demands on the server capacity so it would want to make sure the commercial model is there first.

Still, I’m sure Facebook will figure this out eventually. In the mean time, its users will keep swapping videos.