You’ve probably already heard this story, if you’re the type to care about such things in the slightest, but in case you haven’t…
The SciFi Channel is changing its name to the SyFy Channel. No, as horrifically lame as this is, it is apparently *not* an April Fool’s Joke sprung early.
Aside from the fact that rebranding is generally the last refuge of failing brands, someone please explain to me how a channel which is ostensibly connected in some way to a particular canon of artistic expression can survive when it has such obvious contempt for the core fans of that canon. From the interview:
“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.”
Predictably, anybody who is an actual fan of science fiction, or sci fi, or speculative literature, or whatever label they’re currently hanging on the genre are righteously pissed. I have to admit it’s not terribly surprising that a media corporation may decide that smart science fiction simply doesn’t pay (for a variety of reasons), but if that’s the case… why don’t you sell the channel? If you’re going to rebrand it and get away from your core audience, that’s all well and good… but why choose a rebranding that is not only obviously still trying to keep that core audience? And why in God’s name are you dumb enough to say something that so obviously offends that audience unless you’re going to cut them loose entirely?
Not that I care about the SciFi channel in the slightest; they haven’t done a good job of acquiring or distributing existing science fiction media (Star Trek? Space:1999? The Prisioner? Any one of hundreds of decent movies? Cult classics, even?) since the channel was launched, and their original programming has been 95% utter, utter dreck that more than undercompensates for their occasional decent production. It’s a sign of how bad the channel is that I have never set my DVR to record anything on SciFi, and yet I’m clearly a fan of the genre.
If you’re under-performing, perhaps you ought to try actually serving up the content that your channel originally proposed to distribute before claiming that it doesn’t sell and watering down your brand. If you’re not under-performing (and they’re actually having a good commercial year), what’s the point of re-branding unless you’ve discovered that your success is due to the fact that you don’t serve up the content that your originally proposed to distribute?