Exec to solo at Trio

Viv U arts cabler names Zalaznick prexy

NEW YORK — Trio, the popular-arts cable network that Vivendi Universal inherited when it bought USA Networks from Barry Diller last year, has tapped Lauren Zalaznick as its new president.

Zalaznick, the former senior VP of original programming for VH1, will also take up the title exec VP of emerging networks for Universal TV, a job that will keep her on the lookout for programming niches that could be turned into full-fledged digital cable channels.

But for the immediate future, Zalaznick said she’ll focus on improving the program schedule of Trio because “the economic climate is not friendly” toward the introduction of a new digital cable network.

For example, USA has postponed the launch date of the Crime Channel, at least in part due to a sluggish marketplace. Zalaznick said the company has put Crime on hold until cable operators are more in the mood to negotiate for it.

Trio reaches only 14 million or so households and hasn’t yet become a client of Nielsen Media Research. As a result of these handicaps, Trio manages to bring in advertising revenues of only about $1.2 million a year, according to Kagan World Media. By contrast, Bravo, a network whose programming is similar (although it’s 20 years old and has 64 million subscribers), harvests more than $50 million a year in ad dollars.

Zalaznick said that even though “original programming is Trio’s mission,” she’s looking forward to tapping the movie library of Universal and USA Films for titles that will appeal to “educated men and women who love TV but also love cultural arts.”

Instead of running movies every night haphazardly, she said Trio plans to create theme months as an umbrella, with nightly movies and specials tied in some way to the overall theme.

Zalaznick succeeds Bill Haber, who will continue as a consultant to Trio as well as running USA’s Ostar venture, which focuses on theater productions. Ostar has produced two plays still running on Broadway, “Noises Off” and “Proof.”

At VH1, Zalaznick developed and produced such specials as “VH1 Divas Live,” “VH1 Fashion Awards” and the first interactive awards show, “My VH1 Music Awards.”

Most recently, she was one of the executive producers of Ben Stiller’s movie “Zoolander.”