A-B Exec Says Bud.TV’s Future in Limbo

NEW YORK The future of Anheuser-Busch’s Bud.TV, which the brewer introduced with much fanfare early last year, remains in limbo, according to the company’s top media executive.

Speaking at the Association of National Advertisers TV conference in New York yesterday, Tony Ponturo, president and CEO of the Busch Media Group, was less than enthusiastic about the service’s prospects.

He described the online content offering as, “Not totally dead yet,” and insisted that the company wouldn’t kill the service altogether because, if nothing else, it provides, “a valuable link to the creative community.” And it’s creatives, after all, who produce ads.

But how Bud.TV evolves “is an open question,” he said.

That said, Ponturo noted that the service was “flawed,” in that it tried to be too “hip and cool” for its own good. The feedback from consumers, said Ponturo, was, “We really like your ads,” but the other site content wasn’t especially popular. (The company’s ads have helped it grow its share of the U.S. beer market from 30 percent in 1982 to the current 49 percent. The brewer’s Super Bowl spots have consistently ranked high in popular polls, such as the USA Today survey.)

While the company has made headlines with its efforts in the digital space, the beer maker still spends 90 percent of its estimated $500 million ad budget on traditional media, said Ponturo. (About 60 percent of the budget is allocated to TV, with a focus on big-time sports.)

“We think TV is as strong as ever,” said Ponturo. Integrating TV with online is a priority at the St. Louis-based company, he said. And TV clearly drives traffic to the Web, he said, noting the company’s Super Bowl spots generated 32 million online views after they aired in the game.