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Beyond Imagination: Sci Fi to Morph Into Syfy

Sci Fi Channel, which is set to end its award-winning run of Battlestar Galactica later this week, announced plans today that it will change its name.

Sort of.

Sci Fi will undergo a transformation that will render its new name as Syfy beginning in July. Which is pronounced the same as... Sci Fi. Its tagline? "Imagine Greater." And the cabler's familiar Saturn logo will now be a more "down to earth" rounded three-dimensional font that doesn't immediately signal to viewers that it is a science-fiction destination.

"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 Sci Fi president Dave Howe in a statement. "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."

The changes are expected to be announced as part of a wider channel rebranding at the cabler's upfront presentations today in New York. The Syfy moniker will coincide with the channel's launch of new drama Warehouse 13 this summer.

"We love being sci fi and we're still embracing that," Howe told The Hollywood Reporter. "But we're more than just space and aliens and the future – the three things most people think of when they think of 'sci fi.' What we love about this is we hopefully get the best of both worlds. 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."

Besides, according to some the closeness in terms between Sci Fi and science fiction, isn't a good thing, despite the types of programming the channel has traditionally offered. "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, speaking to TV Week. It's worth noting that Brooks himself helped launch the network sixteen years ago.

(Is it just me or is that comment particularly insulting to Sci Fi's core audience?)

Apparently, the decision behind the moniker change is also related to worldwide business opportunities and not just audience perception, says Howe. "We're going to have upwards of 50 Sci Fi Channels in various territories and yet you cannot trademark 'Sci Fi' anywhere in the world," Howe told the Hollywood Reporter. "A new logo design would not solve that particular challenge. We needed a brand name that was own-able, portable and extendable."

And also brief. According to The New York Times, the name Syfy was developed by a team at Sci Fi and Landor Associates, a "corporate and brand identity consultancy." The Times points that the brevity of the name "echoes the one-word names of other NBC Universal cable channels like Bravo, Chiller, Oxygen and Sleuth, not to mention channels owned by other companies including Flix, Fuse, Logo, Starz and Versus."

Which is fine, except that it's only two letters shorter than the original name... and sounds the same. (TV Week says that 300 other possibilities were discussed before the channel settled on Syfy.)

"The testing we’ve done has been incredibly positive," Howe said of the Syfy name, sharing with The New York Times one comment from a focus group participant: "If I were texting, this is how I would spell it."

Still, Howe was quick to admit that some fans will dislike the new name and perhaps see it as a rejection of their viewing base. "Our core audience will use it an opportunity to question our motives -- they always do," said Howe in The Hollywood Reporter. "But what we're embracing is the total sci-fi landscape – fantasy, paranormal, action-adventure, mystery... it's imagination-based entertainment."

What do you think of this news? Is Syfy a better name than Sci Fi? If you're not watching the channel, do you find it to be a more inviting name that signals a broader range of programming offerings? Or is it a case of the emperor having new clothes, given that the name itself is still pronounced the same way? Discuss.

Stay tuned.


The CineManiac said…
This seems dumb.
Anonymous said…
This is the stupidest decision from a network in a really long time.
Anonymous said…
Dumb, dumb, dumb. I feel personally insulted by this on two levels: that my viewership isn't important and they want to get away from "sci-fi" and do more grounded stuff and that women apparently are stupid and won't understand that Syfy is "Sci Fi". Wow.
Anonymous said…
I can understand them wanting to expand the brand and bring in more audience members but to choose a new name that sounds exactly like the old name is just ludicrous. For a network trying to define themselves by imaginative storytelling, this new name certainly lacks any creative spark.
Anonymous said…
Lack of imagination is right. If you're going to rebrand, why not go all out and change the name itself not just the spelling? Weird. Can you imagine Syfy getting more press/awards/ratings etc than if it was just plain Sci Fi? Nope.
Jace Lacob said…
Personally, I didn't put it in my article but I'd have preferred they just rename it as well if they wanted to rebrand along the lines of Chiller, Sleuth, etc.

My suggestion: Beyond. As in, beyond imagination, beyond reality, etc. I think it's catchier and better captures what they're looking to do.
Anonymous said…
@Jace Once again, cooler heads prevail. I like that much better than Syfy. And feel less insulted.
Brent McKee said…
I'm a Canadian, so I really don't have much interest in the American Sci-Fi - or SyFy - Channel beyond some of what they produce. You can probably bet though that the mair reason they're doing this is for the copyright advantages. As for Canada, the Sci-Fi - SyFy - analog is called "Space: The Imagination Station" which I think is far more evocative than either Sci-Fi or SyFy.

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