Trio Heads to Web

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After years of conjecture about its fate, Trio will ring in the new year in a new form: as a broadband service.

On Jan. 1, parent NBC Universal will convert the arts-and-culture proponent from a linear channel to a Web-based offering, via TrioTV.com and through an icon at sister Web site BravoTV.com.

NBCU’s declaration about Trio’s reformatting came just short of a year after the digital network lost key customer DirecTV Inc. and, with it, more than half of its customer base. Today, the service counts about 8.8 million subscribers, network officials said.

AFFILIATES NOTIFIED

Lauren Zalaznick, president of Bravo and Trio, deferred questions about what will happen with Trio’s affiliate agreements to NBC Universal Cable president of entertainment and content strategy Jeff Gaspin. He was said to be traveling last week and unavailable for comment. Trio officials would say only that affiliate cable systems have been told the service will be discontinued.

Speculation has NBCU’s newest entry — mystery-and-suspense network Sleuth — grabbing some of Trio’s linear carriage. Sleuth is set to launch on New Year’s Day in select Time Warner Cable markets.

Time Warner officials said the company is paying “close to nothing” for Sleuth, to be carried as part of a larger deal with NBCU. The network’s per-subscriber rate card is 15 cents per month.

At relaunch, broadband users will be able to screen fare from the increasingly prophetic Brilliant, but Cancelled series, plus content from its pop culture “AwardsMania” and “Uncensored” stunts.

Zalaznick’s positive spin was this is “the first time a TV channel will be broadcast in the broadband space.”

She said there were questions as to how much content can be migrated from the linear network. “There are a lot of issues surrounding digital rights that have to be sorted out with stakeholders,” Zalaznick said. “We’re going to be busy in the weeks ahead.”

WHAT’LL BE ON

She said TrioTV.com will emphasize documentaries, “lots of stuff about TV and definitely music.” Content will come from existing properties, “unique acquisitions and original productions.”

She believes the channel’s passionate viewers — and others — will become avid users of the broadband service. “We want this to be a reciprocal service, through commentary and message boards.”

Trio, along with USA Network and Sci Fi Channel, was part of NBC’s May 2004 acquisition of Vivendi Universal Entertainment.

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