Busch Backs BOB, the Diginet

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A cable-industry veteran and his partner have lined up Anheuser-Busch Inc. as a charter sponsor for a new diginet that plans to run short films around the clock.

The proposed network is named Brief Original Broadcasts, or BOB, according to co-founder Daniel O'Brien, the former CEO of High Speed Access Corp. and ex-chief operating officer of PrimeStar Inc.

BOB, based in Littleton, Colo., is set to debut on Jan. 1, 2003.

The Anheuser-Busch deal is a multi-year, multimillion-dollar commitment, with the brewer retaining exclusivity in the alcoholic beverage category. BOB is looking for sponsors in other categories.

"BOB has the right mix of leadership, market appeal and economics to become a driving force within the burgeoning digital television platform," Tony Ponturo, vice president of global media and sports media for Anheuser-Busch, said in a statement prepared for release his week. "It provides A-B the opportunity to forge new partnerships with the creative community for generating programming that is truly original and clearly targeted to our demographic."

SHORT FORM

BOB's programming strategy is to air independently produced short-form programming — one- to eight-minute clips, 24 hours a day — targeting the attention-deficient 18-to-34 demographic. The short films will cover most genres, including comedy, drama and animation.

"It's very distinctive, fast paced," O'Brien said. "You don't know what's going to come next. Some people say it reminds them of [MTV: Music Television] 15 years ago."

Some of BOB's content will have been available on Web sites, but none of it will have aired on U.S. television, according to O'Brien.

BOB's sources for programming will include independent producers, directors of TV commercials and film schools, said O'Brien, who also headed the Time Warner Satellite Services unit of PrimeStar at one point in his career. He also did stints at Time Warner Cable and Jones Intercable.

A lot of viable short-form content has a home on the Internet but not TV, according to O'Brien. For example, he noted that BMW had spent $15 million to commission five six-minute films from prominent directors. Those films — including one by John Frankenheimer and another by Guy Ritchie featuring his wife, Madonna — can be viewed on the BMW Films Web site (www.bmwfilms.com), O'Brien said.

O'Brien, BOB's CEO, and his partner, Olivier Katz, the network's co-founder and president, are talking to potential financial backers. O'Brien has also invested some of his own money in BOB.

Katz has been involved in the film, television and ad production business for 26 years, and co-founded the Chicago ad agency Fusion-Idea lab.

PITCH TO OPS

O'Brien is now pitching his diginet to cable operators, and said he is close to sealing a carriage agreement with a major MSO.

He isn't charging distributors a license fee for BOB, but rather plans to share the ad revenue the network generates with them.

The better the placement the network gets on a cable system — with the widest distribution — the more ad revenue the operator will get, O'Brien added.

For charter advertiser Anheuser-Busch, BOB will not air traditional 30-second spots. While O'Brien wouldn't get too specific, he said the beer brewer's ads will be more along the lines of "advertainment," looking more like programming than traditional commercials.

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