NBC Universal Takes Trio Off Air, Moves Programs To Web

In search of a more receptive audience online, NBC Universal on Monday announced plans to reposition Trio, its arts and pop culture cable channel, to the Web by January 2006.

Under the BravoTV.com banner, Trio will offer online viewers much of the same content currently available on cable TV, such as documentaries, music videos, and its "Brilliant, But Cancelled" series featuring cancelled TV shows.

By next year, the channel will no longer continue as a stand-alone digital cable service. At the beginning of this year, DirecTV stopped carrying Trio, leading to predictions that the channel would fold. Currently, Trio reaches about 8.8 million subscribers, out of approximately 110 million TV households.

Lauren Zalaznick, president of Trio and its sister network Bravo, said that migrating online was an opportunity to build out the channel's current offerings--documentary film, classic TV shows, and music videos--and to find a larger audience.

"Instead of losing one cable channel, you're gaining three or four broadband Internet channels," said Zalaznick. She added that the rapidly changing media landscape required TV companies to adopt new distribution methods. "The half-life of these initiatives is ever-shrinking, so while the opportunity is still there [online], we want to be there," she said.



NBC Universal's decision to scrap the cable channel in favor of the Web might work to Trio's advantage--although the move appears to be a step down, said Robert Thompson, director of the Center for the Study of Popular Television at Syracuse University. "Apart from being cool and hip to be the first channel to go online, there is still a sense that this is a demotion--no question," Thompson said, adding: "But they clearly weren't thriving on cable, so this could be the best thing for them, if they can pull it off."

Thompson compared Trio's current situation to that of comedian Milton Berle, who failed as a radio personality before establishing himself as this country's first TV superstar. "At the time, before the '50s, no one had a television, so his move to television was seen as a kind of demotion. There will definitely be some Milton Berles for the Internet."

Trio has notified its affiliate cable systems that the service will be discontinued. Further information about the NBC Universal broadband initiative will be announced at a later date, according to a company spokeswoman.

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