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Direct Response Marketing

TR!O Breaks Boundaries and Builds a Cult Following

1 Aug, 2003 By: Response Contributor Response

Rebranded network lands on Entertainment Weekly's 'It' list.

NEW YORK - Staking a claim to all that may be good, but often is bizarre, cable network TR!O has set its sights on bringing viewers an edgy collection of unexpected and sometimes controversial programming related to pop culture. The network, owned by Vivendi Universal SA (which also owns Sci-Fi Channel and USA Network), has grown to 20 million subscribers.

TR!O fills a void in cable that was left when Bravo and A&E began moving away from arts programming. However, the programmers at TR!O are taking chances and pushing the envelope by airing such fare as "Brilliant but Cancelled," a weekday strip for rebroadcasted, critically acclaimed television series that died prematurely. TR!O, which budgets about $15 million annually for programming costs, also airs original offbeat documentaries, such as "Uncensored Comedy: That's Not Funny!" and "Sick Humor."

Get Short Form

At press time, the network had been put up for sale, along with USA Network and Sci-Fi Channel, by Vivendi. Net ad revenue for the network, which is usually packaged in conjunction with USA and Sci-Fi, grew to $5.4 million in 2003, according to Kagan Media Research. Direct response advertising for all three networks is consolidated into a single department, known as the Universal Television Group.

TR!O's direct response avails consist mainly of 30- and 60-second avails. In addition, the network has available an overnight block of direct response programming, which is managed by the Turner Group Inc. Due to thin cable distribution, the network does not subscribe to Nielsen ratings. Therefore, a significant amount of the commercial load is short form.

"We'll package the network with USA and Sci-Fi as a way to give people exposure to TR!O," explained Brian Fays, managing vice president, direct response and paid programming sales for Universal Group. "The network is a great vehicle in prime time. Also as a result of the rebranding, we have seen leads increase for our direct response clients."

Changing Lanes

In June, TR!O unveiled a new look and tagline - "pop, culture, tv." - to reflect the network's evolution into the touchstone for this generation's pop culture. TR!O's staff of 27 people, based in New York, have won rave reviews from Entertainment Weekly and Time magazine for cobbling together a diverse programming lineup that delves into the offbeat psyche of pop culture aficionados.

As a result of one of the network's most popular themed months, TR!O will be launching a weeknight strip in September of favorite TV shows that were cancelled before its time. The strip entitled, "Brilliant But Cancelled," will air such favorites as "Action," "Profit," "United States," "The Famous Teddy Z," and several others.

"TR!O is more in line with what Bravo and A&E used to be," says Rob Bochocchio, senior vice president of ID Media in New York, which places Fortune 500, pharmaceuticals, travel and tourism, and home mortgage short-form commercials on the network. "It is a great place for our clients to be."

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