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Anheuser-Busch to hire e-bouncers for Bud.TV

ST. LOUIS — Sorry kids. Bud.TV will be checking ID.

Anheuser-Busch Cos. is set to become the first major brewer to weed out underage visitors to its Web sites by hiring an outside firm to check their age.

Currently, major beer companies use only the honor system to keep teenagers from visiting their Web sites advertising popular brews such as Budweiser or Miller Lite. Visitors are asked to enter a birth date to enter, but the information is never verified.

Tony Ponturo, Anheuser-Busch’s vice president of global media and sports marketing, said the company decided to change its policy before launching Bud.TV in February. The site will stream beer-themed shows, sports events and musical acts 24 hours a day.

"I think that everyone in the past had been comfortable, based on the 70/30 rule," Ponturo said, referring to the policy of advertising only in publications or on shows where at least 70 percent of the target audience is 21 or older.

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"I think Bud.TV takes on a different dimension," he said.

The screening process likely will ask visitors for a name, age and address, including zip code, Ponturo said. The data can be matched against public records such as driver’s licenses and voter registration cards.

Ponturo said Anheuser-Busch employees have been testing the process and found it remarkably accurate at verifying who they were.

It’s unclear if Anheuser-Busch’s biggest competitors will follow its lead. Miller Brewing Co. didn’t return a message seeking comment Thursday. Molson Coors Brewing sent an e-mail saying the company had considered hiring an outside screening company but the process is expensive and ineffective.

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