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bud.tvThe beer run ran its course, but it was an interesting - not to mention expensive - experiment.  Anheuser-Busch has finally pulled the plug on Bud.TV, the online beer video destination featuring original humor content.

The announcement follows on the heels of news that Adidas plans a very similiar venture.

Launched to great fanfare and media attention just after the 2007 Super Bowl, at a cost of some $15M, Bud.TV featured an unbranded mix of humor and reality original content targeting just who you'd think: a young male demographic.  Anheuser-Busch had hoped for upwards of 2M unique visitors per month, but a cumbersome registration process, intended to weed out underage traffic, proved a formidable stumbling block. All too often, legal age visitors were blocked by the process.

At launch, the site had 253,000 unique visitors in February 2007, dropping to 152,000 during March. By April, ComScore Media Metrix said the number had plunged so low that it fell off the measurement grid entirely.

The following month, the company conceded the online network probably wouldn't last. Despite the hefty investment, lackluster content and registration obstacles, the site was called "not dead yet" by Tony Ponturo, president and CEO of the Busch Media Group.

Will Adidas fare better, or at least learn from Bud's mistakes? Yesterday the company announced the soft launch of adidas.TV on the company's basketball site. But you don't have to be 18 to buy athletic shoes, and social media has exploded since Bud.TV hit the Web. Adidas' effort will be less of a walled garden -- its video library is designed to share as much as it's intended to be a destination. "The point is less about getting people to the site, it's more about getting the content to the people," Daniel Stein, CEO of EVB, the digital shop behind the initiative, told Adweek.

It's also big on star power. The initial videos feature NBA heavyweights like Dwight Howard, Chauncy Billups and Gilbert Arenas.

Someday, some brand advertiser is going to get this formula right. Content, after all, is what people go online for. Huge global brands such as Adidas and Budweiser have the clout and the deep pockets to pull off their own video hubs. But television wasn't built in a day, and these models remain as experimental as they are expensive.

What's keeping companies like Budweiser and Adidas, not to mention soft drink and automotive brands up at night. Well, yes, the economic is part of it. But so are blockbuster online no-budget viral videos success stories such as Will It Blend? and Diet Coke + Mentos.

What the big brands are doing, in essence, is trying to sustain the type of mementum driven by these campaigns.

It almost makes you wonder if money is going to spoil the internet, doesn't it?

Rebecca Lieb

Published 19 February, 2009 by Rebecca Lieb

Rebecca Lieb oversees Econsultancy's North American operations.

Follow me on Twitter, or connect with me on Facebook.

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