An Alternate Content Stream

Jul 7, 2003  •  Post A Comment

If Trio had carried comedian Bill Hicks’ raunchy video on air, the network would have had to censor the words more bleeping times than it could count.
Instead, Trio chose to carry the comic’s Rush Limbaugh rant on its Web site in full-blown blankety-blank bits, a racy, but legal, tribute to its June programming theme, “Uncensored Comedy.”
The up-and-coming network, which saw a 100 percent increase in upfront sales this year, unveiled its new logo, tagline and on-air look in early June. It has also spiced up its Web site with outtakes, additional material that didn’t make the final on-air cut and Web exclusives, as well as some streams with flagrantly adult language too peppery for broadcast, like the Bill Hicks performance.
The tangy Web site is part of the network’s larger effort to stake its claim as the home for “pop, culture, TV,” Trio’s new tagline, which replaces the former “popular arts television” tagline.
“You can read it as pop and culture and TV or as pop culture describing the kind of TV,” said network President Lauren Zalaznick. “I think it speaks to a broader, more inclusive definition of what’s going to be on Trio-less fine arts, less snooty, less old. We needed to move past a niche audience,” she said.
In sync with the brand refinement is the effort begun last month to ratchet up the interactivity of the Web site through rich content-Web-only audio and video. The strategy is noteworthy, since few programmers’ Web sites contain audio and video clips. “Most Web sites are listing services,” Ms. Zalaznick said.
Traffic to Triotv.com has more than doubled over last June, from 1 million hits to 2.2 million hits. Page views more than tripled from about 233,000 to nearly 752,000, while the number of unique visitors increased by 75 percent. Finally, the number of registered users has grown sixfold to 30,000, Ms. Zalaznick said.
With broadband penetration now north of 20 million homes, content providers are in a position to leverage their Web sites to gain new advertisers or use them as a value-add for existing ones, said Bruce Leichtman, president of Leichtman Research Group.
Trio network currently offers online advertisements as an added-value option in advertising packages and may consider selling online ads separately in the future as the Web site grows.
Since Ms. Zalaznick joined Trio a little more than a year ago, the network has grown from 16 million to nearly 20 million homes. She has refurbished the programming lineup to include theme months four to five times per year. Other programming initiatives include “My TR!O,” in which celebrities, including director Quentin Tarantino and Time magazine columnist Joel Stein, serve as guest programmers for a week.
Advertisers are keen on the changes. Trio added about a dozen new advertisers since January and has made inroads in such evergreen categories as automotive, insurance, financial services and packaged goods.
This month, Trio returns to regularly scheduled programming but plans a weeklong programming stunt celebrating country music, starting July 4th. To complement the on-air fare, the Web producers intend to offer streaming music clips and outtakes from Trio’s original documentary “Lost Highway: The History of American Country” that anchors the event.