Sci-fi Channel Lamely Attempts to Get Hipper
Tuesday, March 17, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
I still remember the day that the Sci-Fi channel made it's television debut. For a sci-fi fan like myself, I was pretty thrilled that there would be a channel out there that focused on a genre that I loved, and that never got a lot of play on "regular" television channels. "Finally,"I thought, "a place on TV where shows like The X-files will be the norm, not the exception. " While their offerings were sometimes hit and miss, overall, it was nice to have the channel around.

Well, now it's been announced that the channel has decided to rebrand itself. What fabulous new moniker did the channel choose? "SyFy". Yeah. You read that right. No typos there. And just why did the network feel compelled to change the name? According to this article:
[T]here was always a sneaking suspicion that the name was holding the network back.

“The name Sci Fi has been associated with geeks and dysfunctional, antisocial boys in their basements with video games and stuff like that, as opposed to the general public and the female audience in particular,” said TV historian Tim Brooks, who helped launch Sci Fi Channel when he worked at USA Network.

Mr. Brooks said that when people who say they don’t like science fiction enjoy a film like “Star Wars,” they don’t think it’s science fiction; they think it’s a good movie.

“We spent a lot of time in the ’90s trying to distance the network from science fiction, which is largely why it’s called Sci Fi,” Mr. Brooks said. “It’s somewhat cooler and better than the name ‘Science Fiction.’ But even the name Sci Fi is limiting.”

Blarrgh. I love the implication that the very notion of sci fi is something only geeky boys living in their parents' basement enjoy. I also like how self-congratulating Brooks sounds at using the "hipper" moniker Sci Fi. I hate to break it to the guy, but I suspect most people use the shorter term "sci fi" most of the time, because it's just fucking easier to say, not because we find it more hip than saying the phrase "science fiction."

Moving on, here's a quote from the current Sci Fi channel president.

The network worked with the branding consultancy Landor Associates and went through about 300 possibilities before selecting Syfy.

“When we tested this new name, the thing that we got back from our 18-to-34 techno-savvy crowd, which is quite a lot of our audience, is actually this is how you’d text it,” Mr. Howe said. “It made us feel much cooler, much more cutting-edge, much more hip, which was kind of bang-on what we wanted to achieve communication-wise.”

Really? Because that's how'd you text it? Allow me to respond with a channel name suggestion of my own, then: the WTF Channel. Because if you're not focusing on sci fi, then what exactly do you want to capture?

Let's start with the new name. It's stupid. It's jibberish. Saying it out loud still automatically invokes the same connotations as the word "sci fi." Reading it, it looks ridiculous. What the hell is supposed to be on that channel? I wouldn't know.

If they wanted a broader appeal/image for their network, I don't know why they just didn't pick a completely new name for themselves. For example, Tech TV was rebranded as G4. The old channel I associated with a slightly dry, very tech oriented sort of channel. Now, I don't even know what G4 stands for, to be honest, but today I automatically associate that channel with a male-oriented, young demographic that caters in hipster, slightly nerdy stuff. That was a great re-branding campaign, and the channel established that identity with a sharp and distinctive visual and audio style to their advertisements.

Here's a suggestion for Sci Fi (or SyFy or whatever they want to be called next): instead of wasting money on branding experts when your current name seems just fine, how about you invest in more shows, and stop putting out crap like "Mansquito" and "Dark Storm" (starring Stephen Baldwin!)? If you want new viewers and you want to be more hip, then go out and get CONTENT that sells that idea. Have some original talk shows, like G4's excellent "Attack of the Show". Produce more good things like Battlestar, and work to score more hot shows reruns, like Lost. Don't waste time and money trying to dazzle us with new and inscrutable names.
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On 12:57 AM , . said...

Apparently, Landor is now trying to distance themselves from this all.