Editor's comment: Getting the last laugh
A view from Gareth Jones

Editor's comment: Getting the last laugh

'Monkey Tennis', 'Arm-wrestling with Chas 'n' Dave' and 'Inner-City Sumo'. Fans of I'm Alan Partridge will remember these last-ditch programme ideas pitched to the BBC by Steve Coogan's character as he tried to salvage his TV career.

Ironically, thanks to the growth of investment by advertisers in branded content, shows such as these could actually end up getting made for online audiences. As we reveal in our cover story, Foster's has become the latest brand to channel marketing spend in this direction. Rather than create shows, however, the Heineken UK-owned lager plans to revive classic TV comedies, such as I'm Alan Partridge and The Fast Show, for the web.

Foster's effort to improve the online experience, rather than interrupt it with ads, is commendable, but lessons must be learned from those who have tried and failed to create compelling content.

The highest-profile web TV disaster involved rival lager brand Budweiser, which was forced to close its online entertainment network, bud.tv, last year. Anheuser-Busch is said to have ploughed up to $40m into the initiative, securing writing talent from the teams behind Saturday Night Live and The Howard Stern Show, as well as exclusive deals with Hollywood stars including Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and Vince Vaughn.

So why did it fail? Traditionally, two types of content have enjoyed online success: TV shows that already have a mass-market following, and quirky viral clips. Despite its multimillion-dollar investment and A-list backing, bud.tv had neither.

So while Foster's initiative may initially appear laughable (not in a good way), if executed well, it could end up ticking both the mass-market following and quirky viral boxes. Sadly for Partridge fans, then, if other brands follow Foster's lead, it could be a while before 'Cooking in Prison' and 'Youth Hostelling with Chris Eubank' enter production.