For weeks press knew a “reboot” of Syfy was coming, but the network was vague about what another overhaul would look like. They’re dangerously close to running out of ways to spell out “sci-fi,” having thrice rebranded from its 1992 launch name “Sci-Fi Channel,” later dropping the hyphen and “channel” in 1999 to become “Sci Fi,” and giving it the initially confusing refresh of “Syfy” in 2009.
Upon arrival at the reveal event in New York on Monday, it was clear the letters would remain the same, as would much of the network’s strategy. A bulkier Syfy logo highlighted the light visual refresh, complete with the slick, tech inspired lettering and a neon yellow and black color scheme. Having renewed some of its most buzz-worthy shows since the Battlestar Galactica days, the major talking point from Chris McCumber, the president of NBCUniversal’s entertainment networks, was that Syfy is prepared to “double down” on genre and build on its core audience.
That approach is one we’re going to see over and over as cable television’s bloated bubble continues to leak air. Oxygen’s recent rebrand is focused solely on true crime. A&E ditched original programming after Bates Motel’s finale in favor of cheaper to produce reality shows. On the programming side, Syfy is going to refocus on the pillars that got them back to respectively after dark times of the early Sharknado years. The sci-fi space opera, fantasy, supernatural, and superheroes will be front and center. We have individual stories on site on the shows greenlighted by the network, including the highly-anticipated Superman prequel Krypton, a series based on a George R.R. Martin sci-fi novella, and a graphic novel adaption starring Christopher Meloni and an animated blue winged-horse.
On the rebranding efforts, Syfy, in a sense, is adopting a new media model. Every startup news organization wants to become Vice. The company grew so exponentially large that they decided to place their content on a linear cable TV channel, a business few currently would want to take a risk on. Syfy is reverse engineering that model by rebranding its news outlet Blastr.com to SyfyWire.com (the domain switch happened a few months back), and is making the news portal a major aspect of its new strategy. Programming like Live from Comic-Con, a future studio show for SyfyWire, and an expanded presense on air are going to give the relationship between “media outlet” and network an E! News feel (their words, not mine). That presents coverage and perception challenges in itself.
Syfy, as a product of being in its 25th year, is firmly entrenched in the television landscape as a place to get sci-fi, fantasy, and genre programming. Competition presents itself at lightspeed in this industry. Syfy believes they can use the restructuring to cement the network as the leader when the appetite for genre is greater than ever. And if it doesn’t work? I’m sure someone in marketing will find a way to rearrange those four letters.