TVWeek.com: Sci Fi Channel Aims to Shed Geeky Image With New Name

From TVWeek.com: Sci Fi Channel Aims to Shed Geeky Image With New Name

Sci Fi is coming off the best year in its history. In primetime it ranked 13th in total viewers among ad-supported cable networks in 2008. It’s a top-10 network in both adults 18 to 49 (up 4%) and adults 25 to 54 (up 6%).

During its fourth-quarter earnings call, parent General Electric said Sci Fi racked up a double-digit increase in operating earnings despite the beginnings of the recession.

So Sci Fi’s been having it’s best year, so what do we do?  Let’s alienate and make fun of the base!

Nevertheless, there 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.

If you put it like this, it doesn’t sound like an appealing demographic, but “double digit increase in operating earnings” can’t be all bad.  Perhaps in this

“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.”

Syfy.  WTF?

So, exactly how is “Syfy” better?

“It gives us a unique word and it gives us the opportunities to imbue it with the values and the perception that we want it to have,” he said.

All I want to know is if that means that more or less of those disaster of the week movies.  This week it’s gigantic flying bugs.  Run! Aaaaaah! 

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.”

I’d love to see that list of 300 other possibilities.  Maybe, “GeeksRus” or “Low budget Sci Fi Channel”?

I can’t believe that they hired a brand consultancy and ended up with “Syfy”.  If you pronounce it exactly the same as “Sci Fi” then what’s the point?

Maybe that’s it.  Maybe they’ll pronounce it like Fifi- “See fee” with a little pink toy poodle logo!  That’ll attract the female demographic.

The problem with the SciFi channel is not its name, but the fact that that very rarely produced good science fiction.  And when they did have a good show like Battlestar Galactica, they messed around with the schedule so much that it killed the momentum of the show.  They also failed to develop other shows that would interest their core audience.  A show like Josh Whedon’s Firefly or even his new creation, Dollhouse would be better shows for SciFi than what will be left after Battlestar Galactica ends its run on Friday.  And now, apparently they’ve decided to forsake their core audience and seek the “general public” and “female” audience.  Guess what, the target demographic they desire will seek shows they want to see and it’s not going to be the Syfy channel.

In these days with hundreds of cable channels, targeting a specific underserved market should be the strategy to go to.  Not to run from.  

Science fiction is a great genre in that issues that affect the human condition can be dramatized in a way that help us see issues in a different way.  You can show discrimination, religion, mortality, and other ideas in a way without the same old rhetoric that you get when you discuss these things in real life.

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