Anheuser-Busch to Launch Online Network Bud.TV

Money for Content Creation Comes at Expense of Prime-Time, Late-Night Spending

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CHICAGO -- Anheuser-Busch plans to spend less marketing its beer during prime-time and late-night TV and start promoting its products on a new network: its own.

Despite launching an online TV network to reach the target 21- to 27-year-old consumer, Anheuser-Busch has no intention of abandoning its traditional staple of TV advertising.

The No. 1 U.S. brewer is readying to launch its own 24-hour internet-based TV network next year, the company said today, detailing its entertainment plans first reported by Advertising Age.

Hollywood connections

A-B's Bud.TV, slated to launch the day after the 2007 Super Bowl, is planned as a web-based network of seven or eight channels, boosted by relationships with major Hollywood figures including Kevin Spacey, Vince Vaughn, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.

And it will have a budget to match those boldfaced names.

Bud.TV will be the largest piece of an online budget that will amass 10% of A-B's $607 million media largesse, said Tony Ponturo, A-B's VP-global media and sports marketing. He added that the bulk of that spending will come at the expense at prime-time and late-night TV.

"It probably most impacts late-night and prime-time national TV," Mr. Ponturo said. "We're trying to be relevant to 21 to 27 year olds growing up in this world where there are thousands of websites they can get entertainment from."

That said, Mr. Ponturo stressed that the brewer had no intention of abandoning its traditional staples of TV advertising and sports marketing. In fact, during an interview, Mr. Ponturo and A-B's VP-creative development, Jim Schumacker, who will run Bud.TV and report to Mr. Ponturo, said they saw the network as a natural extension of the marketer's earlier activities.

Marketing and content crossover

In one obvious bit of marketing and content crossover, the website will have a sports channel that could include programming linked to the brewer's exhaustive sponsorships of auto racing, football and baseball, among other sports. Mr. Schumacker added that characters from the various webisodes and humorous shorts the network will air could ultimately star in their own A-B ads in traditional media.

After the sports channel, the rest of the Bud.TV lineup includes the following channels:

  • TV Shows: Featuring short, sitcom-style shows. One concept in development, dubbed "Replaced by a Chimp," features chimps replacing human workers. Viewers can vote as to whether the simians did the job better at the close of the episode.

  • Bud Tube: A concept developed by Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, this channel will feature A-B commercials shot by consumers.

  • Happy Hour: Developed by DDB, Chicago, and scripted in part by former "Saturday Night Live" writer Matt Piedmont, this station's content will be updated at 4:55 p.m. daily, and feature satirical newscasts, standup routines and "punking," Mr. Schumacker said.

  • Reality: Concepts in development for this station include makeover- and dating-themed programs.

  • Comedy: This station is expected to include footage from actor Vince Vaughn's recent A-B-sponsored comedy tour, as well as jokes from consumers that involve A-B brands.

  • Hollywood: This station will leverage partnerships with Messrs. Damon and Affleck's "Project Greenlight," billed as the world's largest online filmmaking contest, and Mr. Spacey's, which supports aspiring filmmakers. It will also hype upcoming movies featuring A-B product placements.

There will also be a fashion channel, and a talk-show channel featuring sportscaster Joe Buck is also a possibility.

Ad agency as content producer

DDB, A-B's agency of record, helped put the website together and will be one of its most frequent content producers, Mr. Schumacker said. But is the agency, in helping to build something its client said will take money away from the traditional TV advertising it has counted on for so long, speeding up its own demise?

"We're moving shoulder to shoulder with A-B," said Steve Jackson, DDB's global brand director for A-B. "We've been a major proponent of this."

Other partners on the project include Rodgers/Townsend, St. Louis, which is providing the interactive design for the website and desktop application, including a feature that allows viewers to watch the shows in a high-quality full-screen format, and Nine Systems, San Diego, is producing the technology and distribution platform for Bud.TV.
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