(AP) New data released Wednesday show online views of videos soared 66 percent in the U.S. in February from a year earlier, with TV networks grabbing just a pittance of those eyeballs.
The numbers from comScore Inc. underscore a problem being discussed by network executives this week at the National Association of Broadcasters annual meeting in Las Vegas, as they search for ways to drive viewers to their Web sites and TV channels.
Some networks said their online strategies involve trying to stay ahead of video pirates who upload broadcast content online just minutes after it hits the airwaves.
The culprits often post the footage on Google Inc.'s YouTube, the dominant video service in the new survey.
YouTube racked up one-third of the estimated 10 billion views of online video in February, up from 15 percent last year, according to comScore.
"We still see our content pop up on YouTube," CNN.com Executive Producer Sandy Malcolm said during the broadcasters meeting. CNN is a unit of Time Warner Inc.
"You deal with it," she said. "You try to work with them on rights and things, but I don't think you can completely stop it. You just try to beat the tide and try to get your content out as fast as you can."
Excluding AOL.com, Time Warner sites including CNN.com grabbed just a 1.3 percent share of video views on the Internet in February, or roughly 133 million views, comScore reported.
Other TV-based entities remained back in the pack, with Walt Disney Co.'s ABC.com attracting 98 million views, or a 1 percent share.
Even as the YouTube juggernaut continued to attract more viewers, comScore analyst Andrew Lipsman said TV networks were fighting back.
He cited last month's launch of Hulu.com, a video Web site that's a joint venture of General Electric Co.'s NBC Universal and News Corp.
"It seems there's a certain amount of attention and investment going online right now," Lipsman said.
The move was necessary to adapt to "irreversible shifts" in the content delivery business, said Sheau Ng, NBC Universal's vice president of broadcast and consumer technology.
"The point is to make legitimate content easily available," Ng said. "At the same time, you need to tell the local police watch out for this counterfeit stuff."
Hulu Chief Executive Jason Kilar said the joint venture was taking "an offensive approach" against rogue video traders such as users of the BitTorrent file-sharing system.
Hulu embeds video ads in its streams, which can be clipped, e-mailed and posted to other Web sites, all while the company continues to track viewership and maintain ad revenue.
"I don't think piracy will ever be shut down," Kilar said. "The best way to compete in that environment is to create something and embrace something like a Hulu."
YouTube said it has made efforts to clamp down on pirated content and since October has offered content owners the chance to slap ads on even unlicensed video copies and share revenue.
"We're happy to partner with any and all content creators to do with their content as they wish: monetize it, track it or pull it off the site," YouTube spokesman Ricardo Reyes said. "We don't want infringing content on YouTube."
BBC, the government-mandated British broadcaster, said the rapid move to online viewing among young people was a potential threat to its fee-collecting structure.
In December, it launched its iPlayer, an online service that replays TV shows for a week. It has since had 42 million streams or downloads.
"Are our younger audiences drifting away from the TV as the centerpiece of their experience? Absolutely," said BBC's platforms executive, Troy, who uses only one name. "This is our next generation of license fee payers. If we don't respond to the need to make ourselves relevant and accessible in new and convenient ways, we risk losing our relevance with the very people that fund us."
Clyde Smith, senior vice president of global broadcast technology and standards at Time Warner's Turner Broadcasting System, said online details and clips of shows can create incredible brand loyalty, even if some "sampling" occurs.
As an example, some fans have downloaded audio copies of popular TBS shows, re-enacted scenes with puppets and posted the shows back online - which he called "viral marketing."
In other instances, fans have copied versions of programs like "Frisky Dingo" from its Adult Swim channel and reposted them elsewhere on the Internet, without regard to the royalty rights of the show creators or the associated advertising dollars involved.
"Quite frankly, we can't afford to produce it and run it just one time and then have it distributed everywhere," Smith said. "What are the risks the industry's willing to take in the new media spaces? I think that's what the industry is deciding right now."
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