Tuesday, March 17, 2009

What the frak? Sci Fi goes SyFy

It's official. The executives of the Sci Fi Channel are idiots.

The Sci Fi Channel, which is owned by NBC and has been gaining popularity in recent years largely due to the critically acclaimed Battlestar Galactica — of which the series finale is airing this week — has announced that it is officially changing its name to SyFy. As one article announcing the change put it, "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."

And these are the same people who seem to think that professional wrestling is science fiction. Fiction, sure. But science fiction? Of course, the Sci Fi Channel has, since its premier in the early 90s, shown more than just science fiction. Fantasy and horror have almost equal airtime. But wrestling?

Why exactly do the Sci Fi Channel execs think this branding change is a good idea? Well, here's a quote from Sci Fi Channel president David Howe:
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. 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... The name is changing because that's how it's spelled by the lol-crowd? And they think this will somehow make them cooler? Yeah. I'm sure changing the spelling but keeping the same pronunciation will really make a difference in the minds of the people who weren't previously watching the network.

The fact of the matter is that no matter how you spell it, it's still Sci Fi. If the network wants to draw a larger audience, the best method would be to show more quality programming like Battlestar Galactica and the new seasons of Doctor Who, and less garbage like wrestling and most of the infamously unwatchable movies produced by the channel. Why, for example, did Sci Fi pass on the television rights to the Star Wars movies, allowing the Testosterone Channel (otherwise known as Spike) to pick them up? Why does the channel not show more movies like Alien, Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, The Matrix, Terminator, Back to the Future, Blade Runner, Donnie Darko, The Sixth Sense, The Thing, Groundhog Day, Twelve Monkeys, or The Exorcist? All of these would be a perfect fit for the Sci Fi Channel, but instead I see most of them aired on channels like Spike and USA Networks — which incidentally is also owned by NBC. Meanwhile, the Sci Fi Channel shows Alien Apocalypse, Alien Express, Alien Hunter, Alien Lockdown, Alien Siege — are we seeing a trend here? — and, of course, professional wrestling.

Science fiction can be cool, as evidenced by Battlestar Galactica and the previously mentioned blockbuster films. Changing the name of the channel in an attempt to seem cool or hip won't draw more viewers. Playing quality programming that targets its primary audience will. You don't have to be an overpaid network executive to see that.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I lost faith in "SyFy" long ago...
How come spike and g4 have better science fiction programming (i.e. the various star trek series) than a network entirely dedicated to it? And don't even get me started on the wrestling...