Vevo: The Numbers Behind Two Years of Growth
Vevo: The Numbers Behind Two Years of Growth

Music video network Vevo has helped revolutionize online video, has been the subject of IPO rumors and is reported to be wooing investments from Google and Facebook.

But exactly what investors would get is a bit fuzzy to outsiders. Vevo's numbers, as measured by comScore, are down. Changes in methodology and a recent YouTube facelift could be to blame. On the other hand, self-reported numbers not tracked by comScore, such as traffic to Vevo-owned and operated mobile apps, are on the rise.

Vevo's unique U.S. visitors, as measured by comScore, dropped 20.1% to 48.3 million in May 2012 from 60.4 million in May 2011. Vevo's monthly U.S. unique viewers peaked at 62.3 million in August 2011. Time spent viewing has declined to 57.5 minutes in May 2012 from 105.1 minutes in May 2011.

But it's a bit hard to believe many millions of Americans have lost interest in music videos. A Vevo spokesperson tells there are two reasons for the decline in unique visitors and time spent viewing. The first is a change in comScore's methodology in July from a panel-based methodology to one that blends the panel and the census methodologies. The second is YouTube's site redesign in December that puts a greater emphasis on the user's channel subscriptions. The old design featured a stream of YouTube's most-popular videos.

Total views are up year-over-year but have sagged in recent months. The number of videos streamed per month increased 81.5% to 653.7 million in May 2012 from 360.2 million in the prior-year period, according to comScore. However, Vevo's number of videos streamed is down 25% from its peak of 871.7 million in November. Google sites also turned in their best months in terms of videos streamed in the fourth quarter, as measured by comScore.

There's more to this picture because comScore doesn't measure all Vevo activity. In March, saw a 12% increase in traffic and a 16% increase in viewing time, according to Vevo's "U.S. Music Video Viewership Report." A tighter integration with Facebook has helped drive registered users and videos viewed on the Facebook platform. And from January to March, Vevo's mobile apps posted a 39% increase in video streams. Vevo does not reveal the number of views and visitors to or its mobile applications, however.

As Vevo seeks investors, makes new deals with partners and explores International expansion, it will have to compete with a new era of mobile-first video companies like Viddy that will transform how people share and watch online video. But Vevo has something the other video services don't have: exclusive rights to a large catalog of very popular videos by many of the world's most popular artists. And that's what Google or Facebook will ultimately get if they buy a stake in Vevo.