Bud.tv Signs Off

Feb 24, 2009

By Tom Ryan

Anheuser-Busch last week
pulled the plug on its broadband humor website, Bud.tv.
In bypassing traditional media and programming its own content, Bud.tv had promised to transform the way brands reach consumers.

Launched in January 2007
just after the Super Bowl, Bud.tv offered a mix
of unbranded, original content, from reality to humor. The website featured
24-hour live and on-demand programming and other content, such as Webisodes,
sporting events, consumer-generated content, field news reports, celebrity
interviews, music downloads and comedian vignettes. The short shows – such
as those showing Joe Buck interviewing people in the back of a taxi, or
office workers being replaced by chimpanzees
– would not be tied to Bud Light or Budweiser.

While A-B execs hoped Bud.tv would
draw about 2 million monthly unique visitors, the venture
never attracted much of a following. Initially, consumers were turned off
by a cumbersome registration process to verify they were at least 21 years
of age. But the bigger issue appears to be that, for some time, the content
could not be shared – a restriction not in keeping with what has become
almost a requirement of the internet.

Writing in Advertising
, Brian Morrissey said, "YouTube’s success
was, in part, due to allowing users to embed its video players wherever
they liked. Bud.tv, on the other hand, locked down its content on a destination

Speaking to Promo
, Michael Levy, vice president of marketing for Anheuser-Busch,
agreed that the inability to share content was a problem.

"Consumers loved
to interact with our brands online," Mr. Levy said. "They liked
it so they were willing to spend an average of seven minutes [on Bud.tv]. That was good. But one of the things we learned
is we didn’t allow consumers to share the content."

Budweiser also learned
that it was too conservative with its branding.

"We were reluctant
to put a lot of branding out there, but we learned from consumers it was
OK," Mr. Levy said.

Going forward, Budweiser’s
digital strategy calls for increasing its presence with partners such as
Yahoo, Facebook and Hulu, among other sites.

"We’re not cutting
back, we’re just re-purposing what we are doing," Mr. Levy said. "We
are going to spend more time on places people are already going. We realized
that it’s not necessary to have your own standalone network. You can do
things with partners and still have a strong presence."

Discussion Question:
What lessons can be learned from the experimentations and demise of Bud.tv?

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8 Comments on "Bud.tv Signs Off"

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Jeff Weitzman
Jeff Weitzman
13 years 3 months ago

I think Mary is correct that Bud may have benefited from sponsoring more experienced hands already working in digital content. There is a veritable flood of new, original content hitting the web. 90+ percent of it is being watched through YouTube, so independent channels have their work cut out for them. Most of them realize they need to be working with YouTube, not against them. As YouTube gets better at allowing content creators to make money off their content (the original tools were not designed for the kind of tracking and measurement we’re accustomed to on the Internet), stronger content will emerge, and eventually be able to hold its own on multiple distribution channels.

What Bud did get right is that brands absolutely have to be thinking about how to get involved with the world of online video and entertainment. TV is, shall we say, metastasizing, and brand advertising has to figure out how to follow it around the body of our culture. (Ooh, I think I got carried away with that metaphor!)

Ralph Jacobson
13 years 3 months ago

It is important to note that AB-InBev is not pulling investment in social media, it is only learning from this experience and repurposing their efforts. AB-InBev is only one of many CPG firms who are experimenting with all forms of social media, including Facebook, etc., virtual worlds (SecondLife, etc.), mobile marketing (handhelds), and so many other emerging vehicles. They learned that sharing is critical to this type of networking and I’m certain that great marketing engine of AB-InBev will find new, innovative ways to communicate with their audience.

Social media is being used to develop new products (Kettle Foods, etc.), find new customer groups and test new concepts and even new brands, without the traditional development costs and time lines of the past. This will only continue to grow and evolve in the coming years.

Ryan Mathews
13 years 3 months ago

Humor is best when it’s spontaneous. Cool cannot be created, Bud.tv–R.I.P. Just because the agency loved it doesn’t mean that it’s entertainment.

Mary Baum
Mary Baum
13 years 3 months ago

Bob Dylan told our parents not to criticize what they didn’t understand.

A more useful admonition: Don’t sink billions into a medium you don’t understand, trying to attract a target audience you don’t understand.

The article here showed the story of Bud.tv as a string of rookie mistakes from beginning to end–showing evidence of many consultations with lawyers from beginning to end, but not one focus group or usability study with the right, core demographic.

And that would have been so much cheaper….

Liz Crawford
13 years 3 months ago

The concept of Bud.tv was pretty solid. Young beer drinkers, humor, unique content, adult only. The execution was flawed, or rather, symptomatic of digital content growing pains.

My hunch is that we’ll see another brand come into the web channel space with much success. Bud.tv will be a HBR case for MBA students.

Joel Warady
Joel Warady
13 years 3 months ago

This is a perfect example of major brand marketers trying to force engagement with their core target market. This is something that you can’t force. To launch Bud.tv, with the thought that it will serve humor, that will ultimately be funnier if you drink enough beer, is a forced engagement. And these type of engagements seldom if ever work.

The target market on which Bud.tv was focused is the Net Gen group. They will seldom sit back while they are force-fed content, that is developed for them, and served to them. They want to create their own content, watch it when they want, how they want, and on the electronic gadget that they choose. Bud.tv tried too hard to be hip, cool and funny, and when you try too hard, you are doomed to fail. And fail they did!

Mark Lilien
13 years 2 months ago

For Anheuser-Busch to think they could beat YouTube just shows A-B’s inward-focused delusional culture. Even worse, they still haven’t learned, because their face-saving retreat statement still doesn’t promise YouTube content. YouTube is the 50 foot tall elephant in the room and Anheuser-Busch won’t embrace it. Web content that isn’t viewed doesn’t matter because it doesn’t exist. The #1 cost: attracting an audience, not content creation. Good thing A-B’s market share is so huge, because their thinking would get them wiped out if they really had to compete for their lives.

Ed Dennis
Ed Dennis
13 years 2 months ago

AB is a giant and has never made a serious marketing mistake. The beer industry is one that does not survive marketing blunders. The number of huge brands that have disappeared are legendary. Think about Schlitz, Pabst, Falstaff, etc. Each of these broke faith with their core consumer and died a swift death. AB knows more about marketing than possibly anyone except Coke. If they chose to move away from Bud TV, they did it knowing it would do no harm.

The fact that they tried does not mean they failed, but it does mean that they learned and that is the key. Unlike many, AB is a learning organization and if I were their competition I would be concerned about where these resources might be redeployed.


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