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USA Cable’s Trio set for relaunch on June 10

A sneak peek at Trio's new programming needs, wants and desires, and what those mean for indies.
June 7, 2001

When USA Cable bought Trio last summer, the New York-based division of USA Networks announced it would move away from the channel’s programming line-up of original dramatic films and documentaries, to incorporate the popular arts. With the re-launch set for June 10, the details of the channel’s redesign reveal an emphasis on celebrity power and live performances. Says Kris Slava, Trio’s VP of acquisitions and scheduling, ‘We’re taking a much more contemporary, mainstream take on the arts than what’s been seen in the United States before on cable or on broadcast television. We’re going more in the direction of VH1 than what one thinks of as a traditional arts channel.’

Trio’s target demographic is urban professionals between the ages of 18 and 49. The outlet intends to attract these viewers by airing what Slava describes as a ‘Starbucks-y mix’ of popular theater, comedy, fashion, performance, design and media as well as various music genres. Explains Slava, ‘We’re looking for smart productions about exciting, vital subjects as well as a certain amount of star power to attract people and drive those subjects. We want to cover the arts in a broad way, but at the same time not be too esoteric.’

The main outlet for original factual programs from the independent community will be Trio’s two-hour Sunday night specials slot, which repeats again on the following Saturday. Of the 26 specials planned per year, approximately 15 will be original commissions or coproductions. The remaining 11 will be acquisitions of productions that have yet to premiere in the U.S. Although Slava won’t reveal specific figures, he notes, ‘Original production budgets, for performance and documentary, are on par with analog cable channels and outlets like public broadcasting. We’re giving full production budgets, because we want to compete with the usual suspects with programming that’s on par with other services. We’re going to come right out of the box with a high percentage of original commissioned programming.’

It should be noted that Johanna Baldwin recently joined Trio as director of creative development, a post that charges her with developing original specials, documentaries and series.

The bulk of Trio’s schedule consists of acquired series and factual magazines, including Sessions at West 54th, The Originals, Culture Shock, Media Television, and StarTV.

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