Geeks Need Not Apply: Sci Fi becomes Syfy

Over in the US, the Sci Fi Channel, is changing its name. And Ron has quite a lot to say on the matter...

SyFy channel

To call March 16, 2009, a day that will live in infamy is a bit too much hyperbole, even for someone as full of nerd rage as I am at the moment.

However, it can be officially called the day that NBC joined Fox in a backhanded quest to purge science fiction from its airwaves. When you own a network called The Sci Fi Channel (or Sci Fi), that’s kind of difficult. So what do you do? You change the name to Syfy in an attempt to ‘own your brand’ or some stupid corpspeak.

Let’s ignore the fact that the new name is horrible and they apparently don’t even own exclusivity on their shitty new brand.

Starting July 7, that’s going to be the official name of what used to be the Sci Fi Channel. And that noise you just heard was me officially losing my mind.

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I always knew NBC Universal had a problem with Sci Fi. You’d have to be a moron to think otherwise given how they have treated the network over the years. One particularly galling statement from the press release, which I’ll quote, stuck out.

This is from Tim Brooks, one of Sci Fi Channel’s supposed founding lights (even though he’s one of the people who ruined the network in 1998 when Barry Diller bought it and not one of the real founders back from 1992 when it launched) and a ‘television historian’.

“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.”

And girls don’t watch science fiction, huh? Who do you think watches Supernatural? That’s paranormal-based and falls under the broad umbrella of science fiction. Who do you think watched Moonlight? That’s about vampires, so it is under the broad umbrella of science fiction that the Sci Fi Channel used to cover. Or Dr. Who? Or Battlestar Galactica?

Listen, I understand completely how fans of science fiction are perceived. We live in our parents’ basements, have never seen a girl naked, and only leave our chat rooms and World Of Warcraft accounts to go work in the video store, movie theater, or computer repair shop. I know that perception isn’t true, and you know that perception isn’t true, but I don’t mind ignoring the casual disdain so long as the network doesn’t go around screwing up the programming again.

If you don’t think a rebranding of the network now is going to lead to sweeping changes later, you’re fooling yourself. Professional wrestling (and please don’t get me started on the World Wrestling Entertainment product they show, as Vincent Kennedy McMahon has taken a huge dump over two things I used to love in ECW and the Sci Fi Channel) is only the beginning.

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I could ignore wrestling. I could even forgive reality programs like Ghost Hunters and Who Wants to Be A Superhero? because that was at least paranormal in nature. I can ignore a lot. I can forgive a lot.

What I can’t forgive is yet another blatant attempt to kill off science fiction by deliberately tanking the network dedicated to science fiction in an attempt to turn one of the few unique channels on TV into the same collection of Law & Order reruns.

Here’s another eye-catching head-scratcher.

“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.”

Your science fiction network is starting to improve in all the key demographics. This press release is filled with information that network execs should be crowing over; they’re talking about how they’ve had their best year ever in the worst economic climate since the late 70s and they aren’t relating it to the fact that, you know, they had NEW SCI FI ON FUCKING TV.

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Double digit growth in the middle of a recession and they’re decided to change things?! Improving ratings in every demographic (especially women) means it’s time to start needlessly alienating your core audience and turning off viewers by changing the branding your network has had for sixteen years? Is this what they teach you at business school? Is this why the economy went into the toilet, because every MBA program in the country teaches executives how to be human cyanide tablets in power ties? Take the one asset you have that’s growing and bury it in shit to smother it?

Maybe they’re changing things because of the recession. Maybe the brand was too expensive to maintain. I mean, the name Sci Fi does have five letters, and everyone is cutting expenses. So you cut one letter completely, and can’t afford the rent on the the more expensive vowel, so they downgraded to the cheaper option. Chop out a space to use space more efficiently and viola, you’ve saved dozens of dollars a year in typesetting, logo making, and billboard rental space.

The new name is at least pronounced the same, but not for long. That’ll be the next thing to go once they sufficiently alienate the network’s core audience with bad game shows and general disrespect.

At that point, NBC Universal can declare the experiment a failure and network executives will have free reign to destroy what’s left of the network, rebrand it completely (they’re going to spin off the more popular letters from the old Sci Fi name into a new channel called “cii,” I’d wager), and drive the legions of basement-dwelling virgins into the arms of NBC’s horror channel Chiller.

Then once that network starts growing, you can change the name to Chlr to make it more hip and text friendly, then start showing reruns of Monk and Saturday Night Live! Genius! Someone get me a tailored Italian suit, brain damage, and a mountain of cocaine, I’m going to become a TV executive!

Source: TV Week

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US correspondent Ron Hogan is convinced this hate-filled rant has shortened his lifespan by several years and ruined any chance he might have had at TV success. So it goes. Find more by Ron at his blog, Subtle Bluntness, and daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.