Friday, March 20, 2009

On this edition of WTF!?

March 16, 2009 12:01 AM

Sci Fi Channel Aims to Shed Geeky Image With New Name
‘Syfy’ Will Announce Name Change, Other Plans at Upfront
By Jon Lafayette


In some universe, the name “Syfy” is less geeky than the name “Sci Fi.” Dave Howe, president of the Sci Fi Channel, is betting it’s this one.

To that end, the 16-year-old network—owned by NBC Universal—plans to announce that Syfy is its new name March 16 at its upfront presentation to advertisers in New York.
“What we love about this is we hopefully get the best of both worlds,” Mr. Howe said. “We’ll get the heritage and the track record of success, and we’ll build off of that to build a broader, more open and accessible and relatable and human-friendly brand.”

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.

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.

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.”

Mr. Howe said going to Syfy will make a difference.

“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.

In terms of television, the new brand better reflects that the channel has programs that are not about the typical sci-fi themes of space, aliens and the future.

“We really do want to own the imagination space,” Mr. Howe said. “We want to get the credit for the range of content that we already have on our air and that we’ll be doing more of in the future.”

Mr. Howe said Sci Fi looks at its branding every couple of years. He added that when new executives join the network, they usually ask if it has ever thought about changing the name.

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.”

The network plans to make the changeover July 7, when it will launch the new series “Warehouse 13.”

The series, about a secret government facility in South Dakota where all mysterious relics and supernatural souvenirs are housed, is emblematic of the channel’s programming direction.

“It is a dramedy and it is set in the here and now. It’s a kind of an Indiana Jones meets ‘Moonlighting’ meets ‘The X-Files,’” Mr. Howe said. “This is a very accessible, relatable, fun show.”

The network will begin briefing cable operators about the transition this week and plans a trade ad campaign in April as part of the upfront. The new campaign will use the slogan “Imagine Greater,” which Mr. Howe thinks will resonate with both consumers and media buyers.

“It’s a call to action,” he said. “Look at the everyday and how you can turn it to the extraordinary. It’s an aspirational, optimistic message about enhancing people’s lives.”

Mr. Howe said the international Sci Fi channels will transition to the new name over the next six to 12 months.

Web site SciFi.com also will make the change to Syfy.com.

Sci Fi has been working to branch out from being simply a linear cable network to become a hub of businesses operating in the imagination under the Sci Fi Ventures banner.

“We need an umbrella brand we can attach to new businesses: Sci Fi games, Sci Fi kids. It does no use to attach ‘Sci Fi’ because there’s hundreds of sci-fi Web sites and sci-fi publications. So it’s changing your name without changing your name,” Mr. Howe said.

Sci Fi also will be unveiling some of its programming and development plans at its upfront.

But one key venture it won’t discuss is its work with Trion Worldwide to create content designed from the beginning to work on multiple platforms. Mr. Howe said the network is close to announcing a title and description of the project, which will launch as both a subscription-based, massively multiplayer online game and a television series.

A writer has been assigned to the project. The idea is to have the show completely synchronized so that when events happen in the show, they are reflected in the game, and vice versa.

“Because it’s a server-based game, as the storylines evolve in the TV series, so the game echoes that,” Mr. Howe said. “It’s a completely, uniquely interactive 24-7 immersive entertainment experience.”

He’s seen some “amazing demos” from Trion of the graphics and how the world will be built out.

“What that launches, it truly is the next evolution in dynamic storytelling,” Mr. Howe said.

-From TVweek.com

Ok so I can understand the need or want to re-brand, or re-invent your corporate identity from time to time. It's a good idea to refresh every now and again, ask Madonna. But this is just, to put it simply, STUPID. Maybe they should've gotten a different PR guy to do this interview, maybe then I wouldn't be grinding my teeth. I have a sneaking idea that if I ever see David Howe in the street I will have to fight the urge to have words him, and by that I mean push him in front of a bus. (Violence solves everything, kids.) What gives you the idea that alienating almost THE ENTIRETY of your fan base with insulting broad generalizations like the one quoted below is gonna be good for business?

“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,”

“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.”
What the hell kind of way is that to treat your audience!? If you aren't going to base your product around Science Fiction, DON'T CALL IT SCI-FI, OR ANYTHING THAT SOUNDS LIKE SCI-FI. If you want to change your image, your product, your freaking mission statement? Fine. But don't treat the people you are marketing to like idiots. You came right out and said it. You don't want to market to geeks, losers, and nerds? Your loss, brother. We've got the money. Whatever. Take the cash you'll save by not producing D-movies every week or the rights to the syndication of shows like Heroes and Battlestar Galactica and buy yourselves a clue.

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.”

So instead of going to your fans, your meal ticket with your marketing equivalent of a Dear John letter, you go ask some "techno-savvy" hipsters? Quite a lot of your audience are the people you just decided you want nothing to do with! You wanna put out MMO's and "video games and stuff" based on your new, anti-geek identity? Wow. It's like the Sci-Fi channel turned into the guy who just ditched all his real friends for the cool kids table. Did we stumble into an 80's after school special and I missed it? I feel like a sad metal key-tar riff should be playing in the background as the Sci-Fi channel looks back with regret over it's acid-wash-denim clad shoulder and then plunks its plastic cafeteria tray down next to a bo-hunk in a letterman jacket and two girls with giant hair chewing bubble gum and giggling obnoxiously. Congrats SyFy, you're hip now. Hope that new fan base works out for yah. Hipsters and normals right? A notoriously fickle group. You're ditching Geeks and Nerds, a group famous for loyalty that borderlines on a disorder, for them? Best. Idea. Evs.

(BTW, what 300 other options did we sift through to get to SyFy? The language of text outside of the forum of texting is NOT COOL. AT ALL. EVER. )

And what's this crap about lumping all us females in with the "normals"? Girls don't like Sci-fi? (insert keyboard mashy rage ranting here)

What the hell is wrong with being a geek!? We practically rule the entertainment industry right now, iron fist style. Media is catering to us left right and center with web content, explosive DVD extras, viral advertising and casts that embrace their fandoms with gusto. (Even the scary ones.) Web TV shows and short films are exploding all over the internet; shows and movies made exclusively for us, by us. The industry is embracing us right now and we're lapping it up. We determine what's cool in show business now and you, SyFy, don't think we're cool?

Speaking as a dysfunctional anti-social GIRL in my mother's basement with video games and stuff, I am officially boycotting the SyFy channel. What an insulting crock.

Can no longer blog, as am blind with rage.
~Darcy

2 comments:

Jayne said...

So you already know how I feel about this (hint: JAYNE SMASH IN FACE WITH BRICK) but I have to say your '80s key tar after school special riff made this about a THOUSAND TIMES MORE AWESOME.

I also inexplicably want all future crappy SyFy (It looks like they have a verneral disease) to be made in the '80s style. Big hair on your monster dinsaur/rat/bat/shark/vampire/snake/what-the-fuck-ever of the week! Acid washed jeans for everyone!

David Howe=Douche of the Month

Danicus said...

right. the name Sci-Fi is what's holding you back. Not terrible programming like 'Giant Squid 4' and 'Mezozoic Park'. I mean honestly... Work on making things worth watching, and I'll watch them. What you CALL your network has NO bearing on whether or not I'm going to tune in.