SyFy LogoIn one of the most ill-advised marketing moves ever, the US based SciFi Channel is rebranding itself as SyFy.

From TV Week:

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.

Erm… really? SyFy is less geeky than SciFi Channel? Really?

And even if it is, do they not realize that their target audience is, um… geeks?

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%).

Geez, only their most successful year ever? Of course it’s time to rebrand!

“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.

Yes. Going to an awkward misspelling of a ubiquitously geeky term is going to make all the difference in the world. In fact, it might even make up for the fact that all their current viewers won’t have to tune into SyFy anymore for Battlestar Gallactica, considering it’s nearing its final episode.

At least they didn’t alienate their target audience by calling them ‘geeks and dysfunctional, antisocial boys in their basements with video games and stuff like that’.

Oh wait….

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.”

Uh… there is just so much wrong with that bolded part that even I’m not going to go there.

To rub further dirt in the wound, Syfy is a Polish word (the pluaral of Syf) which means:

dirt, filth, grime
(colloquial) pimple, spot
(colloquial, vulgar) syphilis

Naming your Television channel after a Polish slang term for Syphilis, really classy guys. Way to do your homework.

“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.

Great! SyFy Kids! Who wouldn’t want their kids playing with that?

I think the lesson here is simple: don’t let your marketing team drink on the job. Or name your Television channel after a venereal disease. Or based on how someone would TEXT IT.

  • SMD March 16, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    It should be noted that SciFi has been rebranding itself for a while. I don’t know if the inclusion of non-SF-based shows (like all the ghost/paranormal stuff, or any fantasy programming) has had an influence on ratings, but this rebranding of SciFi into something that isn’t exclusively science fiction in nature has been going on for quite a while.

    My problem with SciFi is the fact that it’s not a science fiction channel anymore. It’s a variety channel like all the other big networks, with it’s only common theme being something in the realm of “genre”-based programming, with that genre moniker being used quite loosely in relation to the loads of “real”/”biographical” programming going on. I was cool with the UFO stuff, because that at least ties into the theme, but all the ghost crap is really unrelated to SF at all. It tries to be “real,” but those shows are impossible to see as anything short of a bunch of people walking around and pretending to get the willies at random moments. We never see any activity (nothing that happens that is physical in nature ever occurs while the camera is looking in that direction, so all we get is someone going “OMG, the chair moved,” and we’re supposed to take it on faith that he’s telling us the truth and not playing up the whole thing for ratings; it’s dumb).

    But that’s enough from me.

  • Tia March 17, 2009 at 2:09 am

    I always find it interesting when a company wants to rebrand after coming off a very successful year. And yes, way to insult your customers. When I subscribed to cable, I loved the SciFi channel. I guess I’m their target demographic, but I look at “SyFy” and just think, “huh?” You don’t want people becoming perplexed when they see your brand.

    Oh, and thanks for publishing your full feed!

  • James (Speculative Horizons) March 17, 2009 at 5:10 am

    That’s just utter bullshit. What a totally stupid thing to do.

  • Peter V. Brett March 17, 2009 at 5:20 am

    That’s one of the douchiest things I’ve ever heard.

  • KP March 17, 2009 at 7:43 am

    You hit the nail on the head with this one. I do, however, think that it is in keeping with some of their other marketing decisions. If you look at the way the Dresden Files show was mishandled for instance – not airing the pilot, starting off with one of the worst shows of the season, etc. I also used to read the book reviews on SCI FI Wire though now that it has spun off the main site the book section is more interested in movies than books.

  • Daya March 17, 2009 at 9:10 am

    Douchy is right.

  • Tom March 17, 2009 at 10:10 am

    You are dead on that after this Friday when BSG ends, a large chunk of their audience will disappear. I know more than a few people who won’t go anywhere near SciFi in general but love Battlestar. I’m sure some people will tune back in later this year to see if Caprica is any good but beyond that what else do they have that has any buzz.

    How do the people at Landor Associates have jobs when plenty of good people don’t? 300 possibilities and this is what they chose? Ack.

  • Mark March 18, 2009 at 1:23 am

    Well, look at this another way. Yes, it’s a terrible name, but how many sites have been talking about it? In terms of generating publicity, they must have known that genre fans would kick off about it… There’s so much free advertising!

  • Tom March 18, 2009 at 8:07 am

    I think the people that are talking about it are already SciFi Channel audience members. I for one could care less what a channel I don’t watch does with their branding. What I think it says about them is what kind of new audience they are trying to attract. I have to question the viability of going after a new audience at the expense of their core, especially when their flagship show is about to end.

  • Kenn March 19, 2009 at 1:21 am

    So… we alienate our main viewers, at the event horizon of the end of one of their highest rated shows… why?

    Here’s the key folks: “as opposed to the general public and the female audience in particular”

    They don’t WAN’T to be the Sci-Fi Channel anymore. They want to change it to more mainstream programing, but they want to have everything in place before they pull the final plug.

    Face it kiddos, there’s nothing stupid about it. They’re moving towards dramas and reality shows, and “real” programing as opposed to all that “kid stuff” they built the channel up on for 15 years.

    In short, the next name change will more than likely be USA 2

    But this is a good thing.


    Seriously, this re branding means that now some entrepreneur with a clue can step in and make a cable channel that will show quality science fiction and fantasy programming called “The Sci-Fi Channel” 8D