FX Network Sitcom Set in a Philadelphia Taproom

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LOS ANGELES -- In a product placement deal that makes its beer brands the only ones that will appear in a new TV comedy series set in a bar, Anheuser-Busch has signed on with the FX's It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
Budweiser products are all that will be seen in the bar of the new comedy 'It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.'

The beer giant made a product integration deal as part of its media buy on the News Corp. cable network for the six-episode series, which launches in June. The agreement will embed the company’s products throughout the show, which centers on three friends who own a south Philadelphia taproom.

Exclusive exposure

Anheuser-Busch will be the exclusive alcohol advertised during the commercial breaks, and in an example of growing marketer clout on cable networks, no other beer brand will be visible in the series.

Anheuser-Busch, a longtime advertiser on FX, will get “presented by” tags on the show, which will contain scripted and improv elements. The marketer will use the show to tout Bud Light, Budweiser and the new low-carb Budweiser Select with placements like cans and bottles, neon signs and tap markers at the show’s watering hole setting.

Anheuser-Busch executives said the network reaches the core beer-drinking demographic of men ages 21 to 49, with a good mix of women viewers for fare like Nip/Tuck.

'A natural setting'

“The network’s track record with program development convinced us to get involved on this level,” said Peter McLoughlin, Anheuser-Busch’s vice president of corporate media. “This show in particular is a natural setting for us.”

The deal will give the brewer added exposure on the hot cable network just as its competitor, Miller Brewing Co., has dialed back its involvement. Miller was integrated into the first season of the acclaimed drama Rescue Me and sponsored the commercial-free premiere.

Executives at the brand decided not to return for season two, which launches in mid-June. Along with changes in the marketer’s executive ranks, there were also concerns about Denis Leary’s character, who fell off the wagon late in season one and started abusing alcohol as part of the storyline.

Miller commercials

Miller will continue to advertise during Rescue Me’s commercial breaks, said Bruce Lefkowitz, executive vice president of ad sales at FX, National Geographic Channel and other Fox cable entertainment networks.

Anheuser-Busch executives committed to It’s Always Sunny after seeing a four-minute clip. The show, created by TV and movie actor Rob McElhenney, started filming this week. It's being produced in-house at FX with Mr. McElhenney as the writer and co-star.

“That was the ultimate validation,” Mr. Lefkowitz said. “It’s unusual for a new show to get an integration deal.”

Anheuser-Busch did not pay a separate integration fee, instead bartering the product placement as part of its overall ad commitment to the channel.

Original comedies

It’s Always Sunny is part of an FX effort to make its mark in comedy as it has done with buzzworthy dramas like The Shield, Rescue Me and Nip/Tuck. It will be part of a comedy block that also will include Starved, a look at four friends who battle eating disorders. The two shows are the first original comedies the network has aired since Lucky in 2003, which hit with critics but not viewers, though it won an Emmy for comedy writing.

The shows are expected to be the edgy counterparts for the channel’s envelope-pushing dramas.

“These originals really opened doors for us to garner larger commitments from some advertisers,” Mr. Lefkowitz said, “and to get us into the consideration set for others.”
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