Sci Fi Channel to sci-fi fans: "Drop Dead!"

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, let us gather together and gaze in wonder at the Dumbest Thing Ever:

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.

“What we love about this is we hopefully get the best of both worlds,” Mr. Howe said. “We’ll get the heritage and the track record of success, and we’ll build off of that to build a broader, more open and accessible and relatable and human-friendly brand.”

“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.”


Consider me gobsmacked.

Well, the unwritten story in this article is that NBC’s lawyers probably realized there was no way to trademark “Sci Fi” — but they could trademark a goofy spelling like “Syfy.” So there actually is a legitimate business reason for the change.

But it’s too bad they didn’t just say that. “Hey, folks, we’re changing the name of our network to something we can trademark.” They might get a little razzing about it, but not all that much.

Instead, what they went with was just pointlessly insulting: “Yeah, we’re going to take our core audience, the science fiction, fantasy, and horror geeks, and just tell ’em to take a flying leap. We’re gonna try to get an all-new core audience, one that’s cool and hip and young and sexxxay, if we can convince them to watch old ‘Star Trek’ reruns, wrestling, horror-themed reality shows, and painfully bad movies like ‘Mansquito’ and ‘SS Doomtrooper.’ ”

So five points for having a legitimate reason to change your name, but several thousand points off for telling your friends in the D&D Club that you’re deserting them to try to con a spot at the jocks’ table in the cafeteria.

The Sci Fi Channel has been a pretty sad joke for a while — a few huge successes like “Battlestar Galactica” and “Farscape” balanced against management so cheap they’d broadcast reruns of “Law and Order: SVU” — but I never really imagined they’d end up going hostile on the audiences who supported them over the years. I don’t know if the Secret Masters of Fandom have enough power or a long enough attention span to convince the world’s geeks to boycott the network, but I wouldn’t shed no tears if they did.

Anyway, what’s the over-under for when “Syfy” switches over to an “All Wrestling, All the Time” format? I’m betting on 18 months or less…

No Comments

  1. Casey Said,

    March 18, 2009 @ 9:46 am

    Yeah, I have to agree. The Sci Fi Channel has its moments, my favorite show is Eureka. However, their movies are WORSE than a typical TV movie or mini-series and most of their shows don’t appeal to me and I’m a Sci Fi (Or SyFy?!?!?!) fan.

    Ahh well, I’ll stick to my xbox for now 😛

  2. Kenny Ketner Said,

    March 18, 2009 @ 10:36 am

    That’s pretty disappointing all right.

  3. Scott Slemmons Said,

    March 18, 2009 @ 11:10 am

    Isn’t it frustrating? They have a few good years, thanks to Battlestar Galactica, and now they’ve suddenly decided they hate nerds. NERDS ARE THEIR AUDIENCE.

  4. Will Terrell Said,

    March 18, 2009 @ 11:23 am

    SyFy sounds to me like the “Syphilis channel”

  5. Maxo Said,

    March 18, 2009 @ 12:25 pm

    “The name Sci Fi has been associated with geeks and dysfunctional, antisocial boys in their basements with video games and stuff like that …” Way to marginalize an audience guys, especially one known for its (admittedly sometimes cranky) loyalty.

    And I’ve got a question: If “Syfy” is pronounced the same way as “Sci-fi,” well, what’s the difference? Is an idiotic spelling choice supposed to somehow trick people into thinking it’s something else? Or — as you alluded to at the end of your post, Scott — is this the first step toward an eventual format change?

    Whatever it is, it’s pretty silly.

  6. The Doctor Said,

    March 19, 2009 @ 6:18 am

    Canadian network is called “Space”, they play all the same B moves(I like em!) and tons of star trek(s) and the stargate(s) Euraka (all that good stuff). But never Law an order…… that’s just wrong it’s always sci-fi or fantasy, and they love their viewers (unlike syfy, how stupid a name is that????)

  7. The Doctor Said,

    March 19, 2009 @ 6:23 am

    oops..hate messing up a post…

    anyhow, They celebrate their nerdyness, with shows/news on comics, video games, movies, toys all that nerdy/geeky stuff we love.


  8. Hero Sandwich » AmazonFail Said,

    April 14, 2009 @ 9:23 am

    […] summary, with the recent PR screwups by Amazon and, a few weeks back, by the Sci Fi Channel, I’m almost convinced that I’m the only person who has a single clue about public […]