Anheuser-Busch Adds Digital ID Check To Bud.TV

Anheuser-Busch, sensitive to potential criticism about targeting underage drinkers, is using an age-verification system as it launches its new marketing venture, a Web-based TV network(s).

Bud.TV launches Feb. 4 after the Super Bowl, a time when the company hopes people will be chatting and blogging about its ads in the big game.

The 24/7 "network," featuring both live and on-demand programming, will be carried on up to seven channels. It will use branded content for A-B products, but also independent offerings, such as Webisodes, celebrity interviews, comedy, short films and consumer-generated content--even sports events. Channels will be dedicated to specific genres, while music downloads will also be available.

A-B has reached a deal with Aristotle Inc., a Washington company which provides age-verification services in areas such as tobacco marketing and film ratings. Bud.TV visitors will need to provide their first and last name, date of birth and ZIP code--fairly standard procedure for access to Web sites.

But Aristotle will then conduct a real-time verification check, via a search of public databases, to ensure the users are of legal drinking age. Users who are "cleared" can then create a password for easy entry going forward.

The A-B venture is likely to be closely watched on Madison Avenue as a barometer to see if massive television marketers, such as A-B, will shift budgets to the Internet, hoping to follow consumers interested in online video and entertainment. Initially, however, TV spots will be needed to drive traffic to the site.

A-B promises full-screen, DVD-quality streams.

The company has lined up a series of producers to provide content, which includes Wild West Picture Show Productions' upcoming Vince Vaughn documentary and TriggerStreet.com, attached to Kevin Spacey, which will offer short films from fledging filmmakers.

Agency DDB is managing Bud.TV. In-house A-B's former vice president of creative development Jim Schumacker heads a new digital-marketing operation overseeing the network.