Media Relations: media commentary and criticism

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


-- television -- r.i.p. trio ... long live trioweb?

Alas, poor Trio, we hardly knew ye. And now we'll have to have major broadband width to see ye any more....

Zap2it - TV news - Cable Network Trio Popping Over to Web

Trio, the pop culture-obsessed cable network that's been languishing in the digital hinterlands, will quit broadcasting at the end of this year. But it's not going away entirely.

Instead, NBC Universal, which owns Trio, plans to move the network to the Internet, where it will become a broadband platform on Bravo's web site ( The new service is scheduled to launch Jan. 1.

"NBCU's launch of Trio on broadband is a testament to the strength and popularity of the Trio brand," says Lauren Zalaznick, president of Bravo and Trio. "Trio has always been for people who are obsessed with the arts and pop culture. The web is a perfect place to expand that programming philosophy to an unlimited audience."

Although Trio never reached even 30 million homes as a cable network, it drew a sizable amount of critical attention for its programming, particularly its "Brilliant, but Cancelled" series in which short-lived TV shows of years past were given new life. The channel also features documentaries, music specials and reruns of old "Late Night with David Letterman" episodes. Following the merger of NBC and Universal, however, Trio became something of a forgotten child, and it suffered a further blow when satellite provider DirecTV dropped it at the end of last year. The network has aired little original programming since then, but NBCU says it will beef up the broadband channel's original content starting in 2006.

The real problem with the merger, from Trio's point of view, was that it brought NBC's Bravo under the same corporate umbrella as then-Universal's Trio, both essentially art channels with smallish audiences. Unfortunately for Trio, it happened just after Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and a few other shows kicked up Bravo's visibility, and unless Trio could establish itself as a separate, successful brand, it made no sense for NBC Universal to keep both channels running.

That said, the web option is ... intriguing, if peculiar. Frankly, it doesn't seem like Trio would have a chance of reaching even as large an audience as it did as a cable channel once it becomes web-only. The advertising challenges become greater -- both in letting people know it's there, and because ad rates will necessarily drop, since they'll be reaching a much smaller audience. (My guess would be that Trio will become part of an ad package with Bravo -- pay one fee to get ads only on Bravo, pay a very slightly greater fee to get ads on Bravo and Trio. It doesn't make a lot of sense for Trio to have its own rate package after the shut down.

The question is, what happens to the channel space. NBC Universal is starting SLEUTH on January 1, a channel dedicated to detective television and movie features. It's possible that the channel will go over to them, depending on how the agreements with the various cable services were worded. And given that NBC Universal has all sorts of channels that people like -- NBC proper, SciFi, USA, etc. -- it's likely that they may be able to bludgeon cable systems into carrying SLEUTH: "Put this where Trio used to be, or several of your most popular cable channels will sleep with the fishies...."

Posted by iain at 12:39 PM in category television


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