What's the Most Popular Channel on YouTube?

ComScore Measures Largest Channels; Music Brands Top the List

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The Muppets and OK Go on Vevo
The Muppets and OK Go on Vevo

Viewers pining for MTV 's early era of three-minute lip-synched dramatizations have long known to turn to that grand repository of all video: YouTube. But what they may not know is just how many video-crazed citizens congregate regularly around the video-sharing site.

According to ComScore, which will start publishing data on YouTube's channel partners tomorrow, 40% of YouTube's audience clicked over in July to watch music videos, more than any other category. Vevo accounted for 38% of YouTube's entire monthly viewers, easily the most-watched channel within the video-sharing site, and second-place Warner Music accounted for 20% of all viewers in July. Vevo is a joint venture between Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and Abu Dhabi Media, and it licenses music videos from EMI. (See chart below for full ranking.)

The new measurement data may be a boon to YouTube and its channel partners as the company hopes to entice bigger advertisers with the third-party validation of its audience, much the way that Neilsen has counted TV for decades. ComScore also cuts the data by age group and "gross ratings points," a TV measurement that shows how many people saw an ad and how often.

At the same time, online video hardly has the same depth or reach of TV, where audiences tune in for hours at a time. ComScore's data reveals that of the top 20 measured channels on YouTube, viewers on average are watching a total of 22 .5 minutes a month.

Allen Debevoise, CEO of third-ranked YouTube channel Machinima, said a more accurate analogy pits YouTube as a cable provider and content partners such as Machinima as network programmers. "Machinima is a network in the same way that MTV Network is on Comcast with a broad array of channels," he explained.

Machinima,with an audience of 16.9 million, produces and buys various programs related to gaming, mostly clips that show people how to master video games. Mr. Debevoise said Machinima, which splits part of its ad revenue with YouTube, can sell advertising into a broader category, such as gaming and movies based on ComScore's new data. He pointed out the measurement data does not include mobile viewing, a fast-growing area for his company.

Earlier this year, YouTube reached out to a select group of its most popular content partners to participate in ComScore's initial measurement program, and while most partners agreed, some didn't respond or did not wish to be part of ComScore's analysis, according to people familiar with the matter. ComScore's inaugural ranking therefore does not include every single YouTube creator but the measurement firm said the list reflects most of the top content creators. The top three ranked channels would still remain in their positions in a comprehensive list.

The Google-owned YouTube insists this initiative differs from its pending channel strategy, a deal that includes a $100 million fund that YouTube will tap to pay partners to create higher-quality video clips that would appeal to major advertisers.

"This was really part of our strategy to provide flexibility to our partners," YouTube Senior Product Manager Baljeet Singh said. YouTube's new channel initiative will include ComScore data as well, Mr. Singh said.

Other top channels on YouTube include Demand Media studios, which publishes a wealth of how-to content in the form of short videos, with 15.2 million July viewers. Major media companies listed include Associated Press, with 6.6 million viewers, and Hearst Television, which owns 29 local TV stations, with 3.1 million watchers. BBC Worldwide had a YouTube audience of 2 million.

Amidst the lineup of startups and corporate-backed producers sit a few YouTube stars, small operators with no more than a handful of people. Philip DeFranco's "DeFranco Update," Ryan Higa's "Nigahiga" and comedy duo Ian Hecox and Anthony Padilla's "Smosh" channel all cracked the top 20, but other small-time YouTube stars would have leap-frogged this group had they agreed to be measured, according to ComScore.

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