The Spiffy Channel

NBC Universal’s SciFi Channel had a very good year, reports Television Week:

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%).

During its fourth-quarter earnings call, parent General Electric said Sci Fi racked up a double-digit increase in operating earnings despite the beginnings of the recession.

They’re using this success to rebrand the channel to SyFy. When I first read it, I thought it rhymed with “spiffy.”

Just what do you think you’re doing, Dave? From the press release:

While continuing to embrace our legacy and our core audience, we needed to cultivate a distinct point of view with a name that we could own that invites more people in and reflects our broader range of programming,” said Mr. Howe in making the announcement. “Syfy allows us to build on our 16 year heritage of success with a new brand built on the power that fuels our genre: the Imagination. Syfy ushers in a new era of unlimited imagination, exceptional experiences and greater entertainment that paves the way for us to truly become a global lifestyle brand.”

Since I used to work for GE, I have a bias and tend to agree with the lion’s share of their marketing decisions. With this one, however, I don’t think this is a good idea. Most people in this Slashdot discussion don’t like the change either:

Why? To pull in a more ‘mainstream’ audience. If you’re unclear what ‘more mainstream’ means, TV Historian Tim Brooks spells it out for you: ‘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.’ Yes, we should probably all be offended. And telling us that a crack marketing team came up with the name because that’s how tech-savvy 18-to-34 year-olds would text it really doesn’t help.”

Matt Blum at Wired doesn’t think they asked any geeks about this change:

I heard somewhere they considered several hundred other new names before settling on this one; if so, I can’t imagine how bad the others must’ve been. And, assuming they ran the change past a focus group or two, did they bother to include even a single geek in them? Because I can’t imagine any geek not breaking out into a rant at the idea.

I’ve been through quite a few branding discussions/projects in the last ten years and I don’t understand how this is the best name to rebrand the SciFi Channel with.

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