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Breathing new life into the old adage that there's no such thing as bad publicity, YouTube appears to be thriving despite the difficulty Google, its parent company, has been having with Hollywood.
Viacom's demand earlier this month that Google remove over 100,000 clips from YouTube was widely seen as a sign that Google's mission -- to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful -- had collided with Hollywood's crusade to control its film and video assets and to make them increasingly profitable.
The reported collapse of a deal to put CBS content on YouTube and the general dissatisfaction on the part of major media companies with Google's lack of progress in preventing unauthorized use of copyrighted content online have only heightened the impression that the marriage between the Internet and TV is on the rocks.
Against this bickering, however, YouTube's traffic continues to rise. In the two weeks following Viacom's takedown order -- the weeks ending Feb. 3 and Feb. 17 -- YouTube's U.S. market share of visitors increased by 13.9%, according to Internet metrics firm Hitwise.
Alexa.com, Amazon's Web traffic metrics service, also shows YouTube steadily gaining traffic over the month of February, as it did, more or less, throughout 2006.
Perhaps more ominously for the media companies negotiating with Google, YouTube's online traffic during the week of Feb. 3 surpassed the combined online traffic seen by 56 cable and broadcast television network Web sites.
"This is a landmark event in the changing face of Web traffic and entertainment consumption, now that entertainment seekers are more likely to go to YouTube than any other television network or gaming Web site," said LeeAnn Prescott, research director for Hitwise, on her company's blog.
Media companies may well have good reason to play coy with Google, but YouTube's relentless rise suggests that the difficulties of coming to terms now won't get any easier in the months ahead.