Bud.TV hops to it with originals
New site's emphasis is on audience destination, not brand integrationBud.TV, the first advertiser-owned-and-operated network on the Internet, launches right after the Super Bowl on Sunday with an array of innovative programming such as "Afterworld," a 130-episode, 2.5-D animated science fiction series; the moviemaking competition series "Finish Our Movie"; and "Happy Hour," a daily dose of comedy.
Airing five days a week for six months, "Afterworld," from Stan Rogow Prods., will feature two-minute episodes about the adventures of Russell Shoemaker, who pieces together the mystery of an inexplicable global event that renders 99% of the population missing and all technology useless.
"Finish Our Movie," from "Project Greenlight" producers Live Planet, will invite viewers to compete for the chance to make the middle of a short film whose beginning and ending have been directed by comedy writers Craig DiGregorio and Steve Lookner and written by DiGregorio, Lookner and Nick Malis.
Bud.TV's audience will be able to view the beginning and ending of the film, watch and rate video pitches from prospective filmmakers, view their biographical videos and filmmaking samples and see humorous outtakes and vignettes about the making of the movie. After the winner is chosen and flown to Los Angeles to finish the project, the movie will be shown on Bud.TV in late May along with a behind-the-scenes special.
DiGregorio's writing credits include "Everybody Hates Chris" and "Da Ali G Show"; Lookner's include "Saturday Night Live," "The Man Show" and "Mad TV"; and Malis' include "The Howard Stern Show" and Nickelodeon's "Avatar."
"Happy Hour," which will come on at 4:55 p.m. daily, is a series of comedic shorts written by former "SNL" writer Matt Piedmont. Current and former "SNL" cast members appear in the sketches, including Tim Meadows, Kevin Farley and Chris Parnell.
Bud.TV is not only giving the brand a chance to connect with consumers but is offering Hollywood creatives a new digital distribution platform that is backed by the marketing prowess of Anheuser-Busch, and it could have enormous reach with its post-Super Bowl launch.
"Bud.TV has the opportunity to be a part of setting the new standard for original programming delivered via the Web," said Tony Ponturo, vp global media and sports marketing for A-B.
Added Keith Quinn, senior vp development and production at Live Planet, "We're entertainers, and they're facilitating our ability to entertain an audience." He noted there is no product placement in "Finish Our Movie" nor any directives from A-B to touch on any brand messages. "There's a very clear line that this is entertainment, not marketing," he said.
Rather than doing so mainly through product integration — as most advertisers seeking to market through entertainment are doing today — A-B is following more of the Hallmark Channel model with Bud.TV, providing entertainment it knows will appeal to its core demographic, mainly ages 21-27.
"What they're offering up is bigger than integration," said Robert Riesenberg, CEO of Omnicom's branded entertainment production arm Full Circle Entertainment, which brokered the deal between "Afterworld" and Bud.TV. "They're offering up a destination, a community for their audience, and I think that's even a bigger idea than placing products in shows."
According to a Budweiser spokesman, there will only be limited product integration in shows where it is organic, like in "What Girls Want," which is set in a bar.
Bud.TV officially launches Monday, but most of the programs will be available right after the game. Budweiser is running nine spots during the Super Bowl this year that will be available for viewing on Bud.TV and other beer brand sites. Last year, 22 million people visited Budweiser.com and its partner sites to view the ads in the six days after the Super Bowl, and 30 million people visited in the 10 days after the game.
"We're really excited about the fact that they're going to bring a massive audience," Quinn said. "Bud.TV is the Internet's version of a huge summer blockbuster. They get 30 million people coming to their Web site after the Super Bowl. If 30 million people went to see a movie on opening weekend, it would be the biggest opening weekend of all time."
During the Super Bowl, Budweiser's two second-half announcer reads and electronic billboards will tag Bud.TV, and the new network also will be promoted on major Web sites on Monday. It will feature as many as seven channels dedicated to comedy, sports, news, short films, consumer-generated content and original and mainstream programming.
Other fare includes "Hardly News," an original interactive comedy-news game that shines a satirical light on news and pop culture. It is produced by Studio 2.0, the new digital production venture of the Warner Bros. Television Group that works closely with advertisers in creating original live-action and animated shortform programming for broadband and wireless.
"What Girls Want," "Replaced by a Chimp" and "Truly Famous" are produced by Seed, a division of Backyard Prods. headed by advertising veterans John Immesoete, Blair Stribley and Roy Skillicorn. Immesoete, who wrote and directed four episodes of each original series, is best known as the creative executive behind Budweiser's "Leon" TV spots and "Real Men of Genius" radio spots.
Through a partnership with Wild West Picture Show Prods., Bud.TV will air exclusive behind-the-scenes content and stand-up comedy footage from Vince Vaughn's "Wild West Comedy Show" tour. The network also will showcase short films of rising filmmakers and screenwriters from Kevin Spacey's TriggerStreet Prods. DDB Worldwide is the lead agency hired to manage and produce Bud.TV.