Tuesday, March 17, 2009

How is that pronouced again?

It was announced earlier this week that the SciFi channel is changing its name to the SyFy channel. I think the new moniker is pretty silly-looking, but I do understand why the S_F_ channel might want to use a more trademarkable spelling. But what's really annoying is what they are claiming are the reasons behind the change:
“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.
And I'm sure that the association has nothing to do with the SciFi channel's prime-time wrestling, or the video game-based game shows, or their choice of advertising that focuses on hot women (my "favorite" being the one for Enterprise with the green Orion slave girls and sexy scheming mirror universe ensign Sato, which had pretty much nothing to do with the actual series).

And it ignores the many women who do watch SciFi. Like, you know, me. Or the many women fans of Battlestar Galactica and Stargate and Star Trek and Doctor Who. And you know where I read about the name change first? Yup, women bloggers. I suspect that I'm not the only woman out there who would watch SciFi more often if they added more quality programming. There are only so many times I can watch the same Star Trek episodes.

And what about those women who don't watch "SciFi" because they associate the term with dysfunctional boys? Are they going to see "SyFy" and think "ooh, shiny" and ignore that it's pronounced exactly the same way? Or, as Lisa Fary at Pink Ray Gun puts it:
OK. Dude. Don’t make chicks the culprit here. Are women who are not currently viewers really reporting that they’d watch the channel if it wasn’t called “SciFi”?
And this rationalization is pretty funny:
“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.”
Now, I'm a bit older than that demographic range, so I'm out of touch, but I'm having trouble imagining 20-somethings texting each other about a TV channel. About a TV show, yes. A channel, not so much. Aren't the techno-savvy crowd twittering instead of texting these days anyway? Michael Hinman, founder of SyFy Portal (which was purchased a few weeks ago), must be amused that the name he came up with more than 10 years ago is apparently still so cutting-edge and hip.

And all the talk of branding ignores SciFi's real problem: changing the name means nothing if they don't change the programming. Will they add quality programming? Or will SyFy end up indistinguishable from Spike, with a schedule filled with endless CSI reruns, a bit of wrestling, and the monotony broken up with a bit of Star Wars and Star Trek, and something supernatural for the girly girls?

It would be nice if they remembered those of us who are interested in science fiction. Give me more of that and I'll watch. I'll even try to forget the insults.



  1. My sister and I (I'm female too) were discussing this name change, and we are not happy about it either. I agree with you that they should focus on their programming over the name of the channel.

    So far, everyone I have mentioned it to has not liked the idea of "SyFy." Why alienate your fan-base?

  2. I also do not like the change in the name -this my be just a counter productive moove if the content remins stale and trite !
    Scifi instead of sf is more popular amongst media people in India

  3. I heard that syfy means STD in Poland ... LOL!

  4. Anonymous12:58 PM

    The Sci Fi Sc Fy Whatever Channel should just call itself the Whatever Crap We Feel Like Putting On Channel.

    I have a feeling when Battlestar Galactica goes, it will be Grade Z horror flicks and wrestling all the time.

  5. Katie: Because we aren't the fans their looking for, apparently.

    Arvind: It's controversial here, where some fans think SciFi is derogatory and prefer SF. SyFy is right out.

    nir: I heard that too. Hopefully they aren't planning to distribute in Europe.

    Anonymous: I have my fingers crossed that that won't be the case.

  6. Anonymous10:20 PM

    What a crappy name. This is the first I've heard of it, and it's one more example of catering to the "cutesee uneek spelin" generation.


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