Anyone who caught the "Today" show anchor team singing the praises of YouTube last week had to be amused at the turn of events.

A few weeks before, NBC Universal was battling with YouTube over copyrighted videos available on the site, even though these videos, which included a clip from "Saturday Night Live", earned the network significant publicity and attention. But with a deal announced on June 27, NBC seems to have come around. As part of the deal, NBC will promote shows on YouTube, buy ads on the site and mention YouTube in on-air promotions.

Use of YouTube has exploded since the site was launched just over a year ago. According to comScore Media Metrix, the number of unique visitors to the site has grown from 58,000 in August 2005 to more than 12 million in May 2006.

Nielsen//NetRatings says YouTube’s visitor rate is even higher; it reported that the site got 20 million unique visitors in May, more than half of whom were between the ages of 35 and 64. Anyone who thought YouTube’s audience did not overlap with NBC’s target demographic should probably think again.

comScore and Nielsen generally agree in their breakdowns of YouTube’s users by age. comScore reports that just under half of the users are between 35 and 64. Its figure for the 18-24 age group is higher because the data includes university users, while NetRatings does not.

Whatever the detail, there is no denying that YouTube generates some impressive usage statistics. In May, each unique visitor viewed an average of 43 pages and spent a total of 36 minutes on the site during the month, according to comScore.

What’s next for YouTube? Advertising, for one. The Wall Street Journal says the company is working on a system "with Google-scale ambitions" that will place ads alongside videos.

YouTube also clearly has ambitions in the social network realm; it recently added networking features that enable users to create a profile and link to friends to share messages and videos. At the moment, the site and MySpace, a company that has seen a similarly huge trajectory of users and attention, remain on friendly terms. MySpace users regularly post videos from YouTube to their page and YouTube receives a large amount of traffic from the MySpace site.

More here.