Tuesday, March 17, 2009

An Open Letter To SyFy

This isn't what I originally planned to post here today. However, my stellar review of SuperCroc will just have to wait until later in the week. I have another bandwagon to jump on.

Dear SciFi Channel,

Can I still call you that? Is that ok right now? I'm not sure how official the name change is yet. Have you gone before the judge yet? I've seen everyone talking about it, so that much be like putting an anouncement in the newspaper. I guess that means it's time to give up the ghost and start calling you SyFy, huh?

Well, SyFy, I have to tell you, I'm pretty disapointed in your behavior. Changing your name to a silly spelling seems like the kind of thing you do in junior high to make yourself stand out and feel special. It doesn't REALLY change anything though, does it? I mean, you aren't exactly changing your programming, are you? Are you going to give up on SciFi Saturday (The most dangerous night on tv!)? I mean, I really hope you won't stop showing top quality movies like Dark Storm and Raptor Island. I'm not being sacracastic here. I love these movies. I can't count how many Saturday nights I've spent watching your movies and drinking some beers. It's been a lot of fun.

You said that changing the name makes you cooler and hipper. SyFy.
“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.
Um...that's not a real nice thing to say about a large portion of your audience. It doesn't exactly make me feel all warm and fuzzy about your network, dude. And besides, you can't manufacture cool.
"When we tested this new name, the thing that we got back from our 18-to-34 techno-savvy crowd, which is quite a lot of our audience, is actually this is how you'd text it. It made us feel much cooler, much more cutting-edge, much more hip, which was kind of bang-on what we wanted to achieve communication-wise."
You can try, I guess. Don't you remember what made you special though? You weren't cool. Who the hell wants to watch 4 straight hours of Enterprise?
"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."
So, how does ECW Wrestling fit into that? Let's be honest though. This should come as no surprise. You've basically been shitting on fans of science fiction for years. Terrible movies, bad series' and a lack of understanding what science fiction even entails. Few have done more to make science fiction unappealing to the masses than the SciFi Channel.

Space ships, aliens, time travel, robots, these are all components of science fiction, but it can be so much more than that.There is more to science fiction than Star Trek, The X-Files and Star Wars. Rather than being a network cobbled together with the scraps no one else wants to bother with, you could have built something bigger. How many shows that couldn't work on network TV could have found new life on your network? A show like Firefly would have been perfect. It would have gotten better ratings on a network that nurtured quality science fiction shows for a built in audience than one that was trying to appeal to everyone. You missed that boat so many times that I actually wonder how you managed to succeed with Battlestar Galactica. No, rather than try to create something great, you let yourself whither away in the dark recesses of basic cable.

Rather than trying to be a healthy meal, so to speak, you've striven to be the junk food network. You could be showing movies like Children of Men or Sunshine or Blindness (okay, this is still awfully new and probably a bad example) instead of I Am Omega and Anonymous Rex and SS Doomtrooper. Instead of looking at your audience and seeing a group that wanted you to succeed, you saw a group holding you back.

Eventually, most people realize that the grass isn't always greener on the other side. I don't know that your audience will abandon you because of the name change. I think most of us are accustomed to being maligned and abused. You run the risk, though, of becoming a joke. More so than your movies already make you. And if those 'antisocial boys in their basements' abandon you...well, I wouldn't expect an influx of new viewers to show up to replace them.

$7 Popcorn


Anonymous said...

Well said! This reminds me of how Paramount originally left the "Star Trek" name out of Enterprise, hoping to appeal to a wider audience. I wonder how that worked out for 'em?

It wouldn't surprise me if we see "Syfy" become "SciFi" again in a few years, accompanied by press releases treating the decision as some kind of victory. "A bold tribute to our channel's rich history." Anything but "We screwed up and now we're trying to fix it before we don't have any viewers left."

Their new tagline can be "SciFi: The Coke Classic of Basic Cable."

Anonymous said...

All I can say is 'OMG!'

It's cringe worthy that a group of so-called marketting gurus were sat around discussing what they could do to drum up a little publicity for the channel.

Did the American public read the channel in their listings as 'scifi' and pass it by wondering what it was? Surely not.

For now at least, in the UK the channel is still known as Sci-Fi but there have been other questionable name changes here as well.

For example, a channel called 'PlayUK' - known for airing repeats of mainly BBC shows changed it's name to 'Dave'...bizarre.

More recently, UKTV History, is now 'Yesterday' - unfortunately this is so close to the GOD channel in the listings it's not immediately recognisable as a documentary channel. Even more strange, it's delayed channel 'Yesterday +1'...shouldn't that be 'Today'?

Anonymous said...

Dear SyFy,



*FU is actually how we'd text it. It should made you feel much cooler, much more cutting-edge, much more hip, which was kind of bang-on what you wanted to achieve dear-god-we're-failing-at-marketing-ourselves-and-now-are-grasping-at-straws-wise.

Fletch said...

First off, I'm on the ledge/verge of even being in their target demographic. I'm interested in many pieces of sci-fi art, but I wouldn't necessarily classify myself as a fanboy or dysfunctional, antisocial basement dweller. Hell, I don't even play computer games.

Anyway, I wouldn't have a problem with their name change AT ALL if I believed their intentions to be pure, which I don't. I've written a couple times about the homogenization of cable, specifically as it related to channels like The History Channel, Nick at Nite, AMC, etc showing movies that had nothing to do with the supposed parameters of programming that they had when their channels were established.

Of course, as I learned, American Movie Classics re-branded themselves some years ago as AMC, a supposedly anonymous brand and name that gave them carte blanche to become more "accessible" and run Road House and The Karate Kid. Of course, as someone with a distaste for the certified "classics," such re-branding worked on me (the consumer) - I watch AMC from time to time now, whereas previously I did not.

But my personal satisfaction notwithstanding, it really bothers me to have watched cable over the years. What started as a relatively small number of channels first blossomed into hundreds, with seemingly every social group (gay folks, black folks, country music fans, bicyclists) "getting" their own channel. Such niche programming probably never earned great advertising rates (because, um, it's "niche"), but there was an earnestness to what the channels were doing, catering specifically to their core demo.

Then they got greedy and decided that that wasn't enough, and what we will be left with (if we don't have it already) is a bunch of misnamed and/or anonymous channels that are all utterly interchangeable and in no great way unique from one another. How f*cking boring.

And that's why I think Sci-Fi changed their name. Heck, with that pesky "science fiction" label out of the way, maybe now sticklers like our pal dreamrot won't be able to give them grief for airing ECW Wrestling...

Unknown said...

Nah, I'll always criticize them for airing wrestling.

But, you're right Fletch, the goal of every station seems to be to be more generic.

TLC used to be The Learning Channel, they showed hour long documentaries like The Discovery Channel did. Now, they're TLC and I don't know what they're doing anymore.

It's like KFC. They used to be Kentucky Fried Chicken, but then 'fried' foods became evil, so they changed their name to play the marketing game. Does anyone believe that chicken from KFC is healthier than what they used to buy from Kentucky Fried Chicken though?

Unknown said...

Actually, to be nit-picky, KFC changed their name because the state of Kentucky either copyrighted or trademarked their name, and in order to be "KENTUCKY" fried chicken, they'd have to pay royalties to the state.

Uh, but I'm totally a geek, and the concept of SYFY makes me want to mock.

Thomas Pluck said...

If I ever watched this channel anymore I'd care. Remember, these were the dolts who started the "hey, let's put a little watermark identifying our channel in the corner" marketing that's everywhere now.

I'll take old re-runs of MST3k over their made for TV movies anyday.