Budweiser knows Bud.tv easily could be dismissed as a crass attempt to draw consumers to its Web site and buy its beer.
So it has created a Web site full of original content and Web shows that generally don't refer to the product. The question is:
To register at Bud.tv, you must submit your name and birthday -- you must be of legal drinking age to enter. Last month, 23 attorneys general wrote to Anheuser-Busch requesting the St. Louis-based company use more than age verification for entrance.
The brewer said it has received criticism that its entry already is cumbersome -- but it's reasonable that Bud.tv should have as beefy a bouncer as most bars have.
Once inside, the interface is simple but awkward. You can only scroll through four video options at a time to play on a 2-by-3-inch screen. The site promises an "enhanced" edition soon.
Its video series (there are at least 15) include some appealing comic talent: Vince Vaughn hosts the "Wild West Comedy Show," which documents a standup tour he led; Chris Parnell plays talk show host Dr. Lawrence Bird in a running skit; fellow "Saturday Night Live" alum Tim Meadows plays Ice-Vision, a down-and-out superhero.
Other shows include short-film contributions from Kevin Spacey's TriggerHappy.com; NASCAR highlights; 15-minute "promosodes" for FX's "The Shield"; user-created Bud Light commercials; and a movie title "Party Foul" where users are invited to script the middle of the film, having only been presented with the opening and the conclusion.
Bud is seldom seen or mentioned in the clips, but you never forget you're watching Bud.tv. The material is clearly targeted at young males -- one series features three women making over an unkempt guy.
Some of the material is amusing, but it's far from a site worth frequent visits. It's true that most media companies are owned by corporations, but TV networks and the rest are still sufficiently independent in providing entertainment.
If content becomes owned by the advertiser, it's no longer legitimate, but more like one of those "Special Advertising Supplements" you see in magazines. And if the great burst of amateur online video has shown anything, it's that people want raw, honest entertainment.