Trio Plans Hefty Broadband Adjunct

Pop-culture network Trio is beefing up the content of its Web site, introducing "Trio Plus," a broadband-programming mix designed to both complement the brand and extend it online.

The site debuts today (March 1) with 24 short films from RESFEST, a digital film festival; 49 episodes of Saturday Night Live's classic "Mr. Bill" skit; 16 Hidden Celebrity Web cams from Icebox; and two animated shorts from Trey Parker and Matt Stone, creators of South Park.

Those examples define what Trio is trying to do online — create a place viewers in which can find both original material and adjunct content that relates to on-air programs, said Trio president Lauren Zalaznick.

In one sense, Zalaznick said: "We view Trio, the channel, as a search engine for people. We find all this material and we started to put it into categories" for the Web site, especially material that doesn't easily fit into 30- or 60-minute TV programming blocks.

The short films from RESFEST are an example. Half of the 24 films, which range in length from four to 14 minutes, will be exclusive to Trio.

"It's an underpopulated art form," Zalaznick said. "These are pieces of art that have never been seen."

Conversely, Mr. Bill unearths a buried treasure, especially for younger generations that may not be familiar with the animated character. "Everyone knows Mr. Bill, but they don't know why," Zalaznick said.

The Stone-Parker animated Princess shorts carry their own history. The South Park creators were commissioned by in 1999 to create animated content for the Internet. Parker and Stone were given complete creative control, but the move backfired as their project was shut down after just two episodes.

Trio will air, on television, a one-hour documentary, Shocked, on March 8, which tells the story behind Parker and Stone's dealings with Shockwave. As an adjunct to the program, TrioPlus will carry both Princess episodes.

"It's for people who can't believe the story they just heard," Zalaznick said.

Zalaznick said Trio's typical viewer is younger, upscale and tech-savvy. Since those viewers are typically digital cable subscribers, they also overindex for broadband, she said. Trio Plus is a way to not only market the Trio brand, but to give cable operators one more reason to sell high-speed access.

The new programming on the web site is designed to enhance the television experience, Zalaznick said. She likens the Trio channel to a movie, while TrioPlus includes the extras that now accompany any movie release on DVD.

For instance, Trio may shoot a four-hour interview and edit down to a 30 or 60-minute piece on air. Some of the short snippets in the outtakes may not relate to the "story" for television, she said, but are valid short segments that can stand alone on a broadband Web site.

And the web's 20 million broadband subscribers match the number of cable homes that take Trio's television network.

"We want to reach as many eyeballs as we can," Zalanick said. "The broadband initiative is very meaningful."

In fact, Trio's base of registered online users have grown from 5,000 in May 2002 to 65,000 in January 2004.

"That is phenomenal. People sign up and they want more information."

Zalanick also doesn't believe she's in danger of cannibalizing her on-air audience.

"You can't be scared of the new technology," she said.