Bud.TV Fades to Black

Anheuser-Busch has pulled the plug on Bud.TV, its ambitious online foray into branded entertainment.
 
Visitors to Bud.TV this morning were greeted with the message: “Bud.TV is no longer available. We’d like to thank millions of viewers from over 200 countries for visiting us over the past couple of years.” Visitors are encouraged to try Budweiser.com or budlight.com.
 
Bud.TV launched following the Super Bowl in January 2007. It was hyped as heralding the future of advertising: a brand bypassing media outlets to program its own content.

The costly venture — a New York Times Magazine profile estimated A-B spent $30 million on it in its first year alone — became a case study of the missteps brands can take when trying to build their own media properties. From the start, Bud.TV was hobbled by a cumbersome registration system necessitated by the need to verify the age of visitors.
 
What’s more, it debuted just as the Web was shifting from a collection of destinations to a distributed content system providing fast and efficient portability. 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 site.
 
As a result, the venue never attracted much of a following, despite programming created by DDB, @radicalmedia, LivePlanet and other well-known production companies. Sportscaster Joe Buck hosted one program.
 
Bud.TV not only failed to draw much of an audience, but it lost a prominent booster when Tony Ponturo, A-B’s vp of global media and sports marketing, retired at the end of 2008. A year ago, Ponturo expressed doubt that Bud.TV would work, calling it “flawed” but “not totally dead yet.”

A-B was not alone in thinking it could build its own media property. Coke in July 2006 recast its corporate Web site as a YouTube-like destination for users to upload and share videos. That too failed to attract much of a following, and Coke shifted course.
 
The lessons of Bud.TV are on display in other brands’ efforts to present their video content. Adidas is readying the launch of Adidas.TV, which will make its content easily portable to blogs and social networks. What’s more, Adidas will also use existing distribution hubs like YouTube to seed clips widely across the Web.