Bud.TV on tap for another year

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NEW YORK -- Despite lackluster traffic averaging 50,000 unique visitors per month, Anheuser-Busch has decided to stick with Bud.TV at least through 2008, a company executive said Tuesday.

Following a keynote speech Tuesday at the Online Media, Marketing & Advertising Conference & Expo, Tony Ponturo, vp global media and sports/entertainment marketing, also said that Anheuser-Busch decided to end its 25-year title sponsorship of NASCAR's Busch series and its role as the official beer sponsor of NASCAR so it could invest more in entertainment and the digital space.

The decision to continue online entertainment network Bud.TV, in which the company already has invested $20 million-$30 million, was made about a month ago, Ponturo said.

"We wanted to get through the step of, 'OK, should we continue into '08 as we build our marketing plans?' and that was the decision," he said. "I think it (Bud.TV) is something that could have an ending someday, but I think if we keep learning from it and if we keep seeing assets from it ... then it makes sense to continue the site."

"Swear Jar," a commercial filled with expletives that initially was created for the Super Bowl but then shelved for a year and a half, had more than 3 million views on YouTube after debuting on Bud.TV. Ponturo noted that "if we didn't have Bud.TV, it would still be sitting in a drawer. No one would have ever seen it." Another idea is to turn content into a TV advertising campaign, he said.

Anheuser-Busch CEO August Busch told investors in May that Bud.TV would "fade" in the second half. But Ponturo later said Busch's comments were misunderstood and that his implication was that there would be "evolving or modifying" of the Bud.TV strategy.

Traffic to Bud.TV has continued to slide from the 250,000 visitors the site had when it launched in February. The site tallied 150,000 visitors in March.

"We have to keep evolving it," Ponturo said. "We need to work better on getting traffic and relatable content. We're also trying to find ways to create a dialogue with the consumer so there's a chance for chat and text. We need to build that platform out a little bit more."

A-B is disappointed with the content it acquired for Bud.TV -- much of it from such high-profile Hollywood talent as Kevin Spacey's Triggerstreet Prods., Matt Damon's LivePlanet Prods. and Warner Bros. Television Group's Studio 2.0, Ponturo said. The site is in discussions with Hollywood producers for new content.

"I think we'll look at the beginning of the year as a sort of soft new launch," Ponturo said.

But this time, A-B will do more testing of content with consumers before it greenlights any productions, Ponturo said. "We do that on commercials now. We don't go into production until we really have a very strong feeling that the idea can play out well to the consumer and I think we probably have to do more of that on the content side."

A-B will increase its online media spending from 10% of its overall media budget -- estimated at about $500 million -- to 12%-15% of its budget next year, Ponturo told the OMMA conference, which is part of Advertising Week.

While Ponturo said A-B wanted to end its official NASCAR sponsorships so it could divert funds elsewhere, industry sources said the company did not want to pay the higher sponsorship fees NASCAR was seeking.

Ponturo declined comment on how much A-B spent annually on of its official NASCAR sponsorships but it is believed to be in the $15 million range. A-B is believed to be spending about $15 million to sponsor the Kasey Kahne team next year.

Coors Light also said Tuesday that it will become the official beer of NASCAR next year in a five-year deal estimated at $20 million.
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