Trio gets a makeover

USA Cable is remaking Trio, giving the digital network's new programming and on-air look in time for the popular arts channel's June 10 relaunch.

"Our approach to arts is going to be much more visceral and organic," said Kris Slava, vice president of programming and acquisitions.

Trio's programming will sample the cultural landscape, with music, theater, dance, movies, festivals and events. The art and culture focus puts it in the company of established networks Bravo and A&E., but, where those have gone more the way of general-entertainment networks, Trio is committed to the popular arts, said Patrick Vien, president of emerging networks for USA Cable. It's commited to 650 hours of new programming.

For now Trio is disadvantaged by its digital carriage. It currently reaches 11.3 million subscribers on satellite and digital cable, whereas A&E has about 81 million subscribers and Bravo has 53 million.

"Time will tell if Trio is successful," said Allen Sabinson, A&E's senior vice president of programming. "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and there are no monopolies on good ideas."

Acquisitions include Sessions at West 54th St., a celebrated PBS music series; Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, a 1970s classic comedy series; and the TV premiere of theatrical Elizabeth. Though ad supported Trio will try to minimize commercial interruptions.

Trio will add original programming over time. Ten original series and specials are in development for this year, including Walk Through, showcasing some of the world's finest private art collections, and a 10-hour special on the 2001 New Orleans Jazz Festival, hosted by Branford Marsalis.

Trio also has slated American and international documentaries and magazine shows "too hip for prime time," Slava said.

USA Cable acquired Trio and its sister network News World International in May 2000 for about $100 million through the purchase of North American Television Inc.