Trio Tries To Capitalize On Upfront

Digital-tier network Trio is moving into the new TV season with a better upfront and new programming.

Trio President Lauren Zalaznick said that the network's recent upfront was a success, with an increase of about 100% over last year. But with its limited footprint as a digital network with about 22 million homes, Zalaznick cited other reasons for optimism.

"A better measure for a very, very small network is the strength of new advertisers and 'good' advertisers," she said. In those respects, Zalaznick said, Trio is doing even better with deals with advertisers like Acura, Proctor & Gamble and others.

She said that the network's strategy was the strength of its traditional advertising as well as other opportunities. But unlike other networks that skirt with predicting the end of the 30-second commercial, that's not the case at Trio.

"It may need to be supplemented with inventive, creative cross-platform initiatives but 30-second spots are here to say for a while and we believe in them and we love them," Zalaznick said.



Trio does well among 18-24s and 25-34s, among them a lot of media planners and buyers. "The luxury of Trio is that it is a channel that speaks directly to the people who buy time and speak directly with clients," she said. While Trio is not regularly rated by Nielsen Media Research, data shows that more than 60% of its audience is 18-49. And that's comforting to Trio in comparison to its rivals like Bravo and A&E, which can skew older.

"I think if you believe in marketing as opposed to pure advertising, then you have to believe that if a channel looks, feels and smells hip, young, smart, fun, and you don't think there's anything else like it on television, then in some measure that's true and it's going to speak to people," Zalaznick said.

Trio is making a number of new initiatives to keep speaking to that audience. In one announced last week, the network is allowing one celebrity every quarter to program Trio for a week. The first, in July, will be Time writer Joel Stein, who will show his favorite programs in primetime, including an old David Letterman that features a letter written by the young Stein. Filmmaker Quentin Tarantino next programs the primetime lineup in October. Brilliant But Canceled, a monthlong programming effort that featured quality shows that didn't click with audiences, returns in the fall as an hourlong strip from 8-9 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. The first week of programming will feature never-before-aired pilots way before its time, either with then-unknown stars, quality writers or production teams, or a concept that didn't click then but did later on.

Zalaznick said she's not sure yet about the titles this time around. Last season's Brilliant But Canceled included shows from comic innovator Ernie Kovacs and a little-watched CBS show called The Fabulous Teddy Z. There's still some debate on how to program them, although it's possible that genres (hourlong dramas, dramedy, half-hour sitcoms, etc.) could be programmed a week at a time.

That bows to the reality of Trio, which still has a small footprint nationwide and fights for audience share with the rest of the programming choices. "We need to clearly do things for a week at a time, if not a month at a time, which is another way of remembering that frequency and reach are no joke," she said.

That's part of the network's philosophy of programming and advertising. "We're trying to pay not just lip service but clear attention to the phrase 'break through the clutter,'" she said. She points to a patience for repetition elsewhere on television, with repeat broadcasts within a week and the simple fact that Law & Order in its many incarnations are on several times a week.

Brilliant But Canceled will also kick off a night of programming that includes an hourlong destination block called 9 Sharp, with acquired and original documentary and nonfiction programs. From 10 p.m. to 11 p.m., there are episodes of NBC's David Letterman show.

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