This Is Not How to Make Yourself Cooler

The Twitternets is all aflutter this morning about the now-formerly-known-as-Sci-Fi-Channel’s bit of thickheaded rebranding:

Building on 16 years of water-cooler programming and soaring ratings growth following its most-watched year ever, SCI FI Channel is evolving into Syfy, beginning this summer, Dave Howe, president, SCI FI, announced today.

By changing the name to Syfy, which remains phonetically identical, the new brand broadens perceptions and embraces a wider range of current and future imagination-based entertainment beyond just the traditional sci-fi genre, including fantasy, supernatural, paranormal, reality, mystery, action and adventure. It also positions the brand for future growth by creating an ownable trademark that can travel easily with consumers across new media and nonlinear digital platforms, new international channels and extend into new business ventures.

That last sentence is the only bit of this that makes a lick of sense. Pretending that being the Sci Fi Channel (sorry, SCI FI! I do not like to yell in all caps!) limits you from airing “fantasy, supernatural, paranormal, reality, mystery, action and adventure” programming is just making excuses. What this comes across as — and I’m hardly the first person to point this out — is “Hi! We’re distancing ourselves from that crazy science fiction, ’cause it’s for nerds/geeks/crazed fanboys who never leave the house/take your pick of clichés!”

If it’s all about a trademark thing, though, then fine. FINE. I can even get halfway to forgiving the post for referring to both “the mainstream appeal of the world’s biggest entertainment category” — without really clarifying what it means by that; TV? “Scantily clad women?” Suzi suggests — and “the generic entertainment category ‘sci-fi,'” only because they’re talking about trademarking. (Though the idea that their new name is “broadening perceptions,” as opposed to “broadening viewer skepticism toward the wisdom of the network’s choices,” is almost enough to make me snort coffee.)

But the simple fact is, whatever the reason, be it corporate grabby hands or nerd distancing tactics, the new name is stupid. Stupid enough that it goes quite well, really, with such wonderful TV movie titles as Ice Spiders and Sharks in Venice. Oh, formerly-known-as-Sci-Fi-Channel, you’ve always been so wonderfully literal. Why go wonky with “creative” spelling now?

(Possibly my favorite Twitter response: “I like that ‘SyFy’ are spelling phonetically to a group that can usually explain the main theoretical barriers to warp speed technology!”)

EDIT: OK, I somehow missed this gem of an article before — in which one Tim Brooks, TV historian, actually says:

“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.”

We’re still having this conversation? The women-don’t-like [insert “geeky” thing here] conversation? Really?

But hey. That Dave Howe fella says “SyFy” makes them feel “much cooler, much more cutting-edge, much more hip, which was kind of bang-on what we wanted to achieve communication-wise.” I know I feel cooler every time I see the word I will never pronounce any way but “Siffy.” Don’t you?

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