This name is about to become part of your life. Brace yourself.
© Sci Fi Channel
Apparently the honchos at Sci Fi, which is owned by NBC Universal, are concerned that "sci fi" is too geeky a term, associated with social misfits who like to watch stuff no one else gets, like Battlestar Galactica. The name, they, thought, might be holding them back. So they're changing the name to "Syfy."
Huh? Is this a joke? Apparently not. They even have a new, nonsensical slogan: "Imagine greater." What does that mean? It's as if they took the Mac slogan, "Think different," and put it through the Brundlefly machine.
"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 (quoted in TV Week). The female audience is a big deal: although Sci Fi shows high-testosterone stuff like ECW wrestling, the female-viewership numbers for shows like Ghost Hunters have been very promising. But am I alone in feeling a little insulted by this? Are science fiction fans really just adenoidal nerds? Is that what NBC Universal thinks of us?
Despite the fact that "syfy" sounds like the domain name you reluctantly choose if "scifi.com" is already taken, executives at the 16-year-old cable network enthused about the idea, saying it will open up all new vistas and possibilities.
"While continuing to embrace our legacy and our core audience, we needed to cultivate a distinct point of view with a name that we could own that invites more people in and reflects our broader range of programming," said Sci Fi President Dave Howe. "Syfy allows us to build on our 16-year heritage of success with a new brand built on the power that fuels our genre: the Imagination. Syfy ushers in a new era of unlimited imagination, exceptional experiences and greater entertainment that paves the way for us to truly become a global lifestyle brand."
Got that? In other words, the real problem is that "sci fi" is a generic term, and so Sci Fi Channel is sort of like Drama Channel. Changing the name to Syfy allows them to brand their content more specifically, so that their scripted entertainment and reality-show properties will be tied to a much more discrete corporate and marketing entity. In particular, Syfy is easier to protect as a trademark than the generic term "Sci Fi."
They ran through 300 or so possibilities before landing on 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," 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."
Oh, and if you were wondering why Syfy Portal recently changed its name to the more cumbersome Airlock Alpha, this is the answer: NBCU bought the brand from them.
The "Syfy" concept will launch on air and on-line July 7th, in tandem with the premiere of Warehouse 13 and the return of Eureka, and scifi.com will assume the URL syfy.com at that time. Between now and then the network will be engaged in an all-out campaign to convince people this isn't the dumbest marketing idea since New Coke.