We Can't Own 'Sci Fi', So Let's Change Our Name To Something Stupid

from the is-this-one-taken? dept

The name of the Sci Fi cable channel is pretty self-explanatory: the channel shows science fiction programs. But it’s going to soon have a new name: “Syfy”. It’s apparently pronounced the same as Sci Fi, regardless of how it reads, and was chosen because NBC Universal can “own” it, as opposed to the generic Sci Fi name, which the company couldn’t trademark. Perhaps we can take some solace in the fact that the company isn’t trying to take ownership of the term sci fi, but is the ability to trademark the channel’s name so important to its business that the company would go to the expense of rebranding, while potentially reducing the effectiveness of the brand name? It’s been obvious that the lawyers were in charge at NBC Universal for a while now, but letting them run the branding might not be such a great idea.

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Comments on “We Can't Own 'Sci Fi', So Let's Change Our Name To Something Stupid”

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hegemon13 says:


The other reason appears to be that they don’t want to focus on science fiction anymore. They are focusing on “imaginative” entertainment. It’s part of NBC’s effort to tailor the channel more for the mainstream. It will fail miserably, of course. The only reason the channel has succeeded so far is that it served an extremely loyal and underserved niche market. They now plan to alienate that market to go after a crowd that is already happy with what they watch on the big channels.

And as one commenter on another board said…”syfy” sounds like an adorable pet name for syphilis.

CmdrOberon says:

SciFi isn't worth much anyway

Why would anyone care? There’s so little on SciFi (and TV
in general) to watch. It’s a stupid name and
will get lots of laughs and comparisons to syphillis, but
in larger terms, that network is a lost cause.

You could compare it’s downward tilt away from its core
programming to many of the channels in the Discovery network, many of which have become very pale shadows of
their original forms (Discovery, TLC, History, FoodTV, er FoodNetwork, Animal Planet).

Maybe it’s time to rethink this idea of 1000 channels of
narrow casting? It obviously doens’t work because so
many narrowcasters are trying to broaden their appeal
away from their core demographics.

So, ultimately, we’ll have 1000 channels broadcasting all
the same lowest-common-denominator pablum to the masses.

I don’t recall who said this, but it’s certainly apropos:

TV is called a medium because
it’s neither rare nor well done.

hegemon13 says:

Re: SciFi isn't worth much anyway

Actually, narrowcasting works just fine. The problem is greed. NBC can’t be happy with the shocking success that SciFi Channel has had. Now they have to try to make that audience “even bigger.” In the process, they’ll lose most everyone. When you have a loyal, reliable fan base, be happy with it and figure out how to serve them even better. Don’t throw them away looking for a bigger crowd that you don’t know how to serve.

Missing TechTV says:

Re: Re: SciFi isn't worth much anyway

The best example for this that I can think of is the sad loss of TechTV. Granted, it was bought out and combined with another narrow niche channel but the net result was the same. Almost every single TechTV fan hated G4 before the merger for lack of real content. Now they can’t even stay narrow on Tech and Games because they ruined what good there was.

CmdrOberon says:

Re: Re: SciFi isn't worth much anyway

> Actually, narrowcasting works just fine. The problem is
> greed.

The problem isn’t at question here, the result is.
And, the result is that lots of narrowcasting
efforts eventually broaden their horizons and ruin
the concept.
So, I’m still going to say that narrowcasting doesn’t work.

It’s time the broadcasters face it: there is only
so much you can say about ‘golf’, or ‘food’
or ‘fine living’.

After a while, you’re going to broadcast nothing
but reruns. When this happens, subscribers will
drop out.

And, it’s time consumers face it: stop paying for
narrowcasting premium channels. They aren’t worth
the money and they will quickly become boring.

CmdrOberon says:

Re: Re: Re:2 SciFi isn't worth much anyway

> Your not getting it.

You’re. Sorry, must be pedantic.

> Narrowcasting works. It is the broadening of those
> narrowcast channels that does not.

I do get it, but I disagree and believe that you’re constraining the problem to fit your desired result. In other words, you are choosing to look at years 0 through 5 of a new narrow casting venture.

After some period of time, one of two things happen:

1. Customers turn elsewhere because the content is
old, or doesn’t suit their level.
(Even with narrow casting, you are going to have
continuum of skill levels, and you can’t cater
to everyone)

2. Revenues aren’t growing. They may be flat,
but they won’t grow because your narrow
casting audience is saturated.

At most, you can get 100% of the narrow casted
market, and then your growth potential becomes
the growth potential of the narrow casted market.

For example, if you narrow cast to beekeepers,
your growth after capturing 100% of the current
market will be very small.

The growth for the same scenario for snowboarders
is potentially higher, but you’ll have more
advanced people, or longer-term viewers dropping
out to their own skill advancement or boredom
with unchanging content.

The result of these two scenarios for most business types is to figure out how to expand their growth — and that ultimately means ditching the narrowcasting.

Yes, narrow casting works… if you consider a short time frame.

hegemon13 says:

Re: Re: Re:3 SciFi isn't worth much anyway

Really? There is only so much SciFi content you can do? Bull. There is absolutely no limit to science fiction. It is fiction that involves science in some way. Not a very limited scope. It IS a somewhat niche audience, but it is perhaps the most passionate, loyal fanbase you can find.

SciFi Channel has been huge for a lot more than 5 years. There was no reason to broaden their scope other than greed. They weren’t running out of content. Their best show ever, Battlestar Galactica, didn’t start until after what many would consider to be the start of their decline in quality. They could always offer up new scifi content, and it would have worked to hold their audience. They chose to broaden because they couldn’t be satisfied with that. SciFi Channel is the perfect example of narrowcasting working. It rode a small, niche audience to the #3 cable channel spot. Now, they are casting off that audience, thinking they will expand mainstream viewership. THAT is their point of failure, not choosing to limit themselves to SciFi in the first place.

Are there limits to some things? Perhaps. But golfers obsess over golf, and there are always new games to cover. Home and garden fanatics keep those channels tuned 24 hours looking for the next great idea that they’ll never actually implement. The channels’ audiences are loyal as long as they are narrowcasting. It is the moment they genericize that their fans turn against them. The point of failure is when the channel stops serving its primary audience to look for nonexistant greener pastures.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: SciFi isn't worth much anyway

narrowcasting definately works, look at g4, they have stayed loyal to the internet junky fanbase, even adding sindication of two shows that show the most interest on forums and other shows, lost and heroes, that station is proof that knowing your audience and broadcasting to their desires, and not caring what others think, can be better than bland generic programming for everyone, because we already have those, nbc should at least attempt the same for sci-fi, or syfy. (i’ll still call it sci-fi, until they piss me off and i stop watching).

hegemon13 says:

What about the logo?

Okay, I was thinking about this further. Clearly, they can trademark the logo and the presentation of the name, even if they can’t trademark the name itself. They already have huge brand recognition with or without a trademark. The cost of starting a channel is so high that it’s unlikely some small company will come along to piggyback off the name. It hasn’t happened so far.

So, why does it matter? What possible reason could there be to give up that brand recognition for the sake of trademark?

some old guy (user link) says:

Re: Sigh Figh

Woops, “Enter” != “Tab”, anyways…

By turning their name into a corruption of their former name, all they are doing is inviting people to do the same. They are going to be flooded/inundated with people ripping on them with all sorts of “not necessarily positive” corruptions of sci-fi now.

Of course, they might consider people making fun of their name to be good advertising.. but I doubt this is what their lawyers had in mind when they came up with this scheme.

R. Miles says:

A name change does nothing for the station itself.

Once Battlestar Galactica is done, so am I with Sci-Fi.

Having to endure 30+ minutes of ads for a “2 hour” show is a miserable, miserable experience.

And to think I’m also being charged for this damn station (and others like it) makes me ill.

Screw them all. Let them change their name. It doesn’t erase the fact their station still blows.

If it wasn’t for the DVR, I wouldn’t have even watched Battlestar Galactica.

When the hell is the TV station going to die already? Enough of this bull.

Chronno S. Trigger says:

Re: Re: A name change does nothing for the station itself.

Up here in Pittsburgh on Comcast it’s on the digital package. We have basic cable, 1-22, about $15/m. Standard cable 1-99, about $60. and then digital requires a cable box, 1-999, $150/m when I signed up for it. Those prices probably have gone up since.

I did eventually get the digital package for Sci-Fi and Discovery HD but found out that Sci-Fi turned into the horror channel and Discovery HD just seemed to play the same thing over and over again (Never did see the Mythbusters in HD). Between that, Tech TV turning into G4 (and then the Ninja warrior/cops channel), and The un-named channel for men (After TNN) turned into Spike-Television for Men (If the channel was run by a women), I turned off cable and never turned it back on.

R. Miles says:

Re: Re: A name change does nothing for the station itself.

I am being charged for it:

The instant it became a more expensive tier is the moment I am paying for it.

If it were a simple broadcast station, shouldn’t it fall in the line of basic cable?

Just a thought.

Weird Harold (user link) says:

All TV stations do the same thing over time. They start out full of fire and narrowly suck up to their intended market. They dominate. Then they look around and realize they are just dots on the map, nothing more.

For many channels, it is a question of distribution and advertising. When you reach a certain level of availability, you are more likely to garner national advertising accounts. You know, the McDonalds, Coke, Beer, airlines, etc. Those are major buyers that purchase huge swaths of ads, automatically every month. It allows stations to raise all their rates, and all of their income as a result. You can tell that SciFi wasn’t there because of the number of “self-promotions” they run in every commercial block. The magic number, if I remember correctly, is distribution on cable / sat with potential for 100 million homes (could be wrong, it’s been a while)

So what happens? They stand on their little piece of viewership, masters of all that surrounds them, and they see an adjacent piece of viewership they aren’t getting. Perhaps if they added X or Y, they could expand. Get close to the magic number so they can make much money. Over time, they continue to dilute the product and such up to the middle ground, over and over, until they can reach that numbers.

See the history of “The Nashville Network” which became “TNN”, and then became “SpikeTV” in it’s question to get a large enough market to justify itself – and apparently it worked.

Sadly, the end result of this sort of sliding towards the middle is that you end up with plenty of channels running Seinfeld reruns, Family Guy cartoons, and other non-related programming to attempt to catch the channel surfers and expose them. Over time, the actual root programming that made the channel special is gone, and thus the channel isn’t relevant for the original audience. Worse yet, the channel has actually become more popular, because they are playing to bigger potential audience. So there is no going back.

Another great example is Speedvision, which became SpeedTV. Originally an auto racing and related channel only, once Fox took over they have made big changes. Their most recent change is to add in “Pimp My Ride” from MTV, game shows, and reality / fake drama shows. Now outside of racing on the weekends, the channel no longer actually shows racing. It has gotten them more viewership, but has diluted the customer base, and still hasn’t gotten them the magic distribution levels required to get the good ads.

SyFy will do the same, likely becoming a more widely watched channel, but in the process losing their true fans.

Easily Amused says:

Re: Re:

i am almost speechless… WH posting on topic and fairly reasoned responses!?!
Seriously though, I would like to give them the benefit of the doubt and blame this on the lawyers rather than programming. Sci-Fi has an excellent track record of delivering outstanding new content that no one else would take the risk on. the campy tv movies are actually well made most of the time given their budget. The mini-series ‘events’ they get made are excellent, and give the source material they draw from a much better treatment than any 2-3 hour movie could ever hope to. I would be much more excited hearing that one of my favorite books were to be chosen for a Sci-Fi miniseries than a Hollywood movie project. I am just hoping that as they try to make more money, they continue to throw money at these projects.

Anonymous Coward says:

I very much like the SciFi channel, and am very sad to see such a stupid name change. But then again, I already hate the people that run it by watering it down with stupid wrestling shows. I mean, seriously, who the HECK thought it was a good idea to put wrestling on a science fiction channel? I guess that was just one thing in a series of events that’s going to destroy the essence of what SciFi was. All I can say is that I hope they don’t destroy themselves before the new, upcoming Stargate series airs.

trollificus says:

lol. Mansquito

lol@”scyfy=pet name for syphillis” also.

The points made about how clueless major network/corporate execs are about the whole rationale for narrowcasting are all valid. It’s based on charging advertisers a higher rate for lower numbers of COMMITTED, ENTHUSIASTIC fans than for larger numbers of miscellaneous folks. This is “targeted programming”. It works.

But at a certain level of “corporate” the only thing understood is growth, as opposed, I suppose, to any qualitative considerations. So they want to chase “House, MD” numbers, “American Idol” numbers, leaving Sci-Fi (or “specualtive fiction” or “fantasy”) fans underserved, and, apparently, pissed.

And all the lawyers and marketroids are wearing clue screen CPF 45…

Tom says:


Oh WHY OH WHY!!!??!!!?! <disgust>What a bunch of idiotic people!</disgust> I seriously wish that some of the producers of this would just jump ship with all the BS TV Companies:
ABC: All BS Channel
NBC: Next BS Channel
CBS: Canned BS Channel

Hell, smaller, more niche market (read SciFi) oriented studios or companies have the opportunity of the lifetime to do what Mark Masnick has been writing about for a long time: change their paradigm to content served up on the internet and go for sponsors (companies) to support them with their content. In fact, I am so sure that the company/studio that eventually figures that out and starts using Youtube’s HD option to stream their content, served up with the commercial support of a sponsor company will be the one to watch.

We all know that everything has been converging on the Internet and I suspect that this will be the benchmark that pushes studios to the internet. I for one will be there waiting for one of them to do it. In fact, I will even become a valued consumer for the company that sponsors those studios. I wish there was a company like YCombinator that would sponsor studios to go down that route because they will become the darling of the media world and would most likely PWN the traditional studios in an endgame worth watching from the sideline because it will definitely come out of nowhere in a truly paradigm changing way. Anyway, I think I might put together a more indepth article about how this might be done and post it up to the TechDirt Insight Community because it can be done!

Mark says:

I wish NBC Universal would curl up and die

They have bought up several independent channels and then tried to convert them to their “mainstream” view. They cancel any good programming to cut cost and substitute in their generic, cheap crap. Usually starting with some version of wrestling, followed by “reality” shows.

The only thing left on SciFi I watch is Battlestar Galactica. And after tomorrow night, I won’t be watching anything on there.

NBC and Fox seem to be in a contest on who can create the stupidest network.

The infamous Joe says:

Are you ready?

Who the hell watches cable tv anymore? I see this as even more of a non-issue with a so-called “Sci-Fi” station where it would be safe to assume that a good chunk of their viewers can find other, computer-oriented solutions to watching what they want when they want.

Let them bury themselves– shit, they can borrow my shovel if they want. I can’t wait to see what Sy-Fy reality TV show they come up with. Pathetic.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

trollificus says:

@weird harold

wh has a good explanation of the dynamic at play.

What is overlooked is that there is a limited (though large) total number of ‘viewer hours’ to be split up among an ever-increasing number of channels (and internet content sources, online games, and (shocking, I know) RL activities).

This makes the “big score” approach problematic. The odds of achieving the “critical mass viewership” that will get the big score of national advertising account money are steadily decreasing. Is it really worth it, in every case, to abandon the “targeted, dedicated and enthusiastic” core viewership that you can offer smaller niche advertisers? I wouldn’t think so, but I blame the “winner-take-all” attitude of American business, or more accurately, American business executives.

I think we’re going through a learning process, in which the homogenization of previously narrowcast content will be revealed as non-profitable. Will niche audiences* ever be properly served by national networks?

I’m not sure, but ref my “clue screen CPF 45” comment above.

*-history buffs, scientists, gamers, computer geeks and sci-fi fans, for example. All of whom have seen the content of decent narrowcast channels watered down by executive short-sightedness.

Kevin (profile) says:

There could be another side to this.

I am not saying that I agree with the name change, because I don’t. But has anyone considered that they are doing it because of the stereotypes that are associated with the name Sci-Fi. A bunch of socially awkward, pimple faced, pocket protector, Final Fantasy playing geeks who are living in their mother’s basement at age 30? And perhaps if they change it to Syfy that they might attract some people to watch their D class movies that perhaps would not have before solely based on a name?

I may hate the new name, and I do not watch the channel but for re-runs of Stargate and BSG. But I will still watch it for those.

trollificus says:

off topic, -1 (sci-fi original movies)

I kind of disagree with the poster above who dissed the Sci-Fi channel “creature of the week” movies.

I think they are creating a treasure trove of “B” movies the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the 40s and 50s (when an excess of studio capacity was used for “cheapies”).

The whole 5models+2character actors+CGI+derivative script=B movie gold equation will someday be remembered fondly by those who are, say, 5-12 years old now.

I mean, that “Hunter vs. Alien” movie, where they even RIPPED OFF THE LOGO DESIGN of the “Alien vs. Predator” movies was plagariffic comedy gold!!

JoeP says:

Re: off topic, -1 (sci-fi original movies)

Maybe SciFi, err, Syfy is creating all the b-movie, crud monster gold because they plan to bring back Mystery Science Theater 3000… Yeah, that’d be great. They could own all the b-movie’s that get ripped apart and make more money off them without having to pay any rights to use them! Whoohoo… Win, win.

Anonymous Coward says:


Hey, I AM a “socially awkward, pimple faced, pocket protector, Final Fantasy playing geeks who are living in their mother’s basement at age 30” you insensitive clod!!

(not really, but a mandatory /. ref. Sorry.)

Point is, those folks are consumers, and consumers of PARTICULAR PRODUCTS. As such, the producers of those products will pay to reach them.

But the corporate owners of once-narrowcast content channels can’t be satisfied with that. Much of the discussion here is whether it is wise for them to abandon the niche audience to try to lure people who are now contentedly watching USA, Fox, Celebrity Gossip or Redneck channels.

Some of us are saying that yes, highly-paid, experienced, intelligent corporate executives CAN AND DO make gigantic fucktarded mistakes.

Charles Nussman says:

Sci-Fi Channel

I love science fiction, and the channel has become a huge disappointment. The comment about “horror” is pretty much correct, but add wrestling and a bunch of so-called original movies (all with little plot and showcasing miserable special effects)and you have a real mess. I don’t care what they decide to call it, there’s very little worth watching; they’d do well to go back to their niche and run some of the great (and even some of the not-so-great) sci-fi films and series of the past.

Anonymous Coward says:

this may have been asked...

Why can’t they trademark “The Sci-Fi Channel” rather than just “Sci-Fi”? I mean that is the name of the thing right? Btw, I have to agree with other posters that they are hardly The Sci-Fi Channel they used to be. I grew up watching that channel, and I almost never watch it anymore because of all the bargain basement “monster of the week” movies they show. “Back in the Day” the monster of the week movie was a cult flick or some classic instead of some community college class project. And wrestling?!?!?1/1/?!?! Pardon my inappropriate abbreviation, WTF.

Dan Zee (profile) says:

It's suppose to be NICHE programming

The whole idea behind Universal owning a bunch of cable channels is to provide niche programming. One channel gets women. One channel gets men. One channel gets teens. One channel gets tweens. Etc. All of the stations combined gets a mass audience. As many people stated above, as soon as you try to turn a niche channel into a mass channel, you lose the audience you had and you only marginally attract new viewers.

When you lose your core, loyal audience, you only attract people popping in for a particular show. You lose the people who use to routinely tune into the Sci-Fi Channel for science fiction. People then turn to Tivo to program their own sci-fi channel, bouncing between the other channels to get their sf programming. You then become a channel like all the other channels.

Paul says:

in my opinion

If they wanted people to think “imaginative fiction” instead of “science fiction” they should have just went with “SF: The Speculative Fiction Channel” or something of that nature. People would probably watch it just to try to figure out what speculative fiction even means as its not really a commonly used phrase anymore. Now people just say things along the lines of “sci-fi/fantasy” in the hopes that would cover everything (which it only does by a stretching of what constitutes as sci-fi or fantasy).

scifi channel - uggghhh says:

I too agree that scifi channel has become worthless. When battlestar galactica ends this week, so will my viewing of the channel. most of what they show are really, really bad (boring) “horror” movies and idiotic ghost/haunted shows. the only scifi on the scifi channel soon will be star trek TNG – 15-20 year old reruns.

After this friday, if I could, I’d delete the channel from my cable box so I don’t have to bother skipping over it.

paithan says:


yea Sigh Fi… well I didnt consider that it could get worse than Mansquito… but see a lawyer can do! what was that corny old joke.. ummm wait its coming to me… Oh Yea… “whats better than a bus full of lawyers in a bus at the bottom of the lake? wait for it… wait for it… 2 buses!” Oh yea cant forget SuperCroc gliding in the water over head waiting for floaters like turds in the bowl.

Rogers Cadenhead (user link) says:

People Will Adjust to the New Name

Maybe I’m alone in this, but I agree with the change. Distinctive brands often sound weird when we are introduced to them — Wii, iPod and Twitter are three examples.

When people become familiar with Syfy they’ll accept it too, and the channel will have something it can market all over the place. The term “SciFi Games” or “SciFi Books” are generic. But now they can market Syfy Games and Syfy Books and people will know it’s a product related to the channel.

Ed Wood says:

Okay, so now that they’re changing the name, there’s nothing to stop someone from starting up a Sci-Fi channel. Content shouldn’t be a problem. There’s several decades of Dr. Who waiting to be re-broadcast, 5 years of Babylon 5, 3 of the original Star Trek, a couple of Lost in Space, heck, we could even throw in stuff like Time Tunnel and the original Invaders. While it wasn’t great TV (unless you were a kid), I bet folks would watch “Land of the Giants”, and how much could the broadcast rights be? Throw in all the classic “B” movies, starting with “Plan 9”, and you’d have yourself a real Sci-Fi channel. And so what if all that watches it are pimple faced geeks? You’ll be able to sell a heck of a lot of ProActive…

Chronno S. Trigger says:

Re: Re:

Babylon 5 Crusade, Sliders, 7 days all need finished. One could probably get the rights to Star Trek Enterprise cheap. Someone seriously needs to rebroadcast the original 26 seasons of Dr Who. Finding them in order on DVD is near impossible. Then there are others that one could get easily, Quark, Starlost, Ark II, Genesis II. May not be something that the new, spoiled SciFi fans would like (Old graphics) but the original SciFi fans would love it.

Palmyra says:

As I write this there are already 64 post showing. Almost all of them against the name switch and/or how sucky SciFi channel has become. Has any other article generated such numbers?

As for me, after BSG ends this Friday the only reason to watch the channel will be Eureka.(I hope the suites don’t screw it up more than they already have!)

Overcast says:

How stupid……

You know, technically I don’t “own” the remote with my cable box – but I can still use it to change the channel.

I may well just skip “SyFy” – I’m biased, I liked the name “Sci-Fi” if they change it, I’ll not watch anymore… and that decision makes about as much sense as their decision on changing the name.

dennys says:

opinion of knew, syfy

i love programming that challenges one spiritually and intellectually. the knew syfy is an insult, gravely. garbage reality programming like ‘ghost hunters’, hollywood treasures and watching grown men rub on each other like they crave male physical contact” gay wrestling” has no place on sci-fi. screw sy-fy, my viewing dropped 80% when they turned away from true viewers. change it much more and they should change their name to ”the gay wrestling, so easily entertained they’re sheep” station.
this is just my opinion, i’m considering spending my money on dvd’s. I Like what challenges me, run me off. I am just a viewer. i will find what i like.

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