Carl's Jr. eyes online entertainment

Comedic webisodes to target young males

Will Bud.TV get competition from Burger.TV?

Fast-food chain Carl's Jr. is considering a foray into online branded entertainment, meeting with digital-minded production companies in recent weeks with help from ad-buying firm Initiative Media.

Just as Anheuser-Busch launched its own hub for original video programming last year in the form of Bud.TV, Carl's Jr. wants to target young males with edgy comedic webisodes.

Brad Haley, executive vp marketing for Carl's Jr., confirmed his company was interested in shifting away from traditional digital advertising but cautioned the initiative was in an exploratory phase.

"We've been intrigued by some ideas, but at this point we haven't made commitments to anybody," he said, noting fellow CKE Restaurants brand Hardee's also might adopt such an approach.

Haley said the proposed programming could be in the vein of Carl's Jr.'s ballyhooed 2005 TV commercial featuring a bikini-clad Paris Hilton washing a Bentley, which became one of Internet video's first viral hits.

"Sometimes it relies on sexuality to be edgy but it doesn't always," Haley said. "Other types of humor can be edgy."

Haley said he was not interested in launching an online network per se as much as a series of webisodes with some degree of brand integration. So-called "destination site" strategies have largely fallen out of favor in the wake of Bud.TV, which has struggled to find traction among consumers after early stumbles.

Carl's Jr. has positioned itself with young males with risque marketing. Last year, the company edited commercials for a sandwich with "flat buns," which featured a fetching teacher dancing on her classroom desk, because of complaints from educators.