NBCU Web Sites See Surge in Traffic

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

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

Tina Fey’s Saturday Night Live spoof of vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin gave NBC.com its most-watched viral video ever. The clip not only topped past favorites, but managed to outdo copies uploaded to YouTube.

Users of Apple’s popular digital storefront iTunes have no problem locating NBCU’s TV shows now that a new deal between the companies on Sept. 9 restored episodes. More than 1 million downloads for NBCU 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 percent increase over the site’s previous best. Uniques fell slightly on Tuesday and Wednesday, but page views climbed 6 percent on Tuesday.

Research firm Hitwise found that on Monday, U.S. users 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 second-place finisher “Box,” which collected just over 1 million views on NBC.com.

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

On iTunes, about 30 percent of the top-selling episodes (and full-season packages) now comprise shows either airing on or produced by NBCU. 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 multi-episode packages and $2.99 high-definition episodes.

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

Episodes of The Office, Heroes and SNL are among NBCU’s top sellers.