Time Buy on Trio's Side in Philly

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In an unusual promotional stunt, arts network Trio has bought a 90-minute block on the Fox broadcast network's Philadelphia affiliate to show off its original programming.

The network — owned by Vivendi Universal S.A. — will program WTXF-TV from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Dec. 14. Trio hopes the commercial-free airings of Brilliant, but Cancelled
and The Perfect Pitch
will draw the attention of consumers and of Comcast Corp. — the Philadelphia region's dominant cable provider, which does not carry the network there.

Throughout the block, Trio will screen a toll-free number. Viewers may dial that line to request to see more of the network.

"Part of the success of the campaign will be how many people actually call that number," said Universal Emerging Networks vice president of marketing Jason Klarman.

Klarman would not disclose how much the network will pay WTXF, but said the time-buy and the accompanying marketing campaign will cost the network "well under $500,000."

To promote the block, Trio — currently in more than 17 million households — will place ads on buses and billboards, give away more than 500,000 Trio coffee cups and run local spots for the block on such broadcast shows as CBS's Late Show With David Letterman, Klarman said. The network will also run cross-channel spots on the local Comcast system.

Trio will look to employ similar efforts in other markets.

"Trio needs to generate awareness of and interest in the channel, and the best-selling part of the channel is the programming," Klarman said. "If people get a chance to see it, they're going to like it and want it."

The network, armed with more cash from parent Universal Television Group, has committed significant resources behind a quarterly effort to proffer one month of themed programming.

The aforementioned Brilliant, but Cancelled
and The Perfect Pitch
specials are part of December's emphasis on short-lived TV wonders. Both examine the network pilot process.

The December shows follow an array of censorship-themed programming in June and a concert blitz in August, billed as "Hot Summer Nights." The stunts were accompanied by high-profile marketing support.

Trio promoted the censorship block by placing outdoor images of Michelangelo's David — bearing Trio's theme, and a black bar across its private parts — throughout Manhattan. The network also brought recording artist India.Arie for a concert in New York's Bryant Park to promote the music stunt.

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