CliqueClack TV

Syence fyction: because geeks are inhuman

Syfy logoYesterday I posted a Guest Clack written by colleague and all-around good guy, Michael Hinman, who runs Airlock Alpha. What some of you may not know is that Airlock Alpha used to be called SyFy Portal and looked quite different than it does today. Mike hinted at Airlock Alpha to me a while back, though I never asked why the name was changing. Now that the site’s up, I know the real deal: Sci Fi, the channel, bought the rights to the name “Syfy” from Mike.

And you know what? Good for him! It couldn’t have happened to a more deserving guy, and I like the name Airlock Alpha better anyway. The sucky part of the story is Sci Fi’s reasoning for changing its name to Syfy: to get rid of the notion that they’re for geeks and are, instead, more “human-friendly.” Holy shit — we’re Cylons!

Sci Fi’s had the damnedest time trying to find an identity for itself over the years. Not only can no one figure out how to write their name (is it “Sci Fi” or “Sci Fi Channel” or “SCI FI” or “SCIFI?”), but they’ve thrown in wrestling and reality shows to really throw us for a mind fuck. I bet the guys at Ghost Hunters are thrilled that they don’t have to explain why their show is on a channel that seems to indicate what they do is fiction (OK kids, let’s not get into a discussion about the reality/unreality of ghosts here).

Sci Fi changing their name is a good idea, but their reasoning is just retarded. Tim Brooks, a TV historian who helped originally launch Sci Fi, said: “It gives us a unique word and it gives us the opportunities to imbue it with the values and the perception that we want it to have.” So now, instead of giving at least a glimmer of what the channel offers for programming, they’re going to use a word that gives us no freaking clue what the hell it’s about. Oh, and genius move using a homophone to really mess with our heads — at least with SyFy Portal, they had the decency of actually exclusively covering, y’know, Science Fiction content!

From this Syfy-branded non-human, let me say that the new values and perception I’m getting is that you have no idea what the hell you’re doing and you’re going to be forever known as “that channel that used to be pretty cool when they had a science fiction show called Battlestar Galactica on.”

Photo Credit: Syfy

33 Responses to “Syence fyction: because geeks are inhuman”

March 16, 2009 at 11:14 PM

I personally am disgusted at how they are handling this and the level of contempt they have for their actual core audience. Lets not forget this little gem that Tim Brooks said before:
“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,”

As soon as Galactica is over, I am done. In fact, to borrow from Mr. Bale… we are frakking DONE professionally.

Granted TV channels are about making money, but I would rather a channel devote themselves to quality program for a finely tuned audience than what they are trying to achieve.

Check out the number of such negative comments on their own site:

*oh, and congrats to the guys at AA. I will admit I tended to shy away from there because I didn’t care for the layout of their site and their name. I hope they got a nice fat check for it.

March 16, 2009 at 11:16 PM

forgot to add:

As disgusted as I am…none of this surprises me. Since the canceling of Farscape the writing has been on the wall. They clearly just want to make their channel like every other one out there.

March 17, 2009 at 12:30 AM

The part of this that really boggles me is the quote floating around from Dave Howe. “The testing we’ve done has been incredibly positive,” Mr. Howe said of the Syfy name. Who was involved in that test? People that were going to get paid to change the name? Because everywhere I’ve seen this mentioned, the reaction has been overwhelmingly negative. And that’s when it’s not just downright hostile.

But then, I look at this kind of like stadium naming rights. It doesn’t matter how much money Qwest paid to have their name on our football stadium, I’m still going to call it Seahawks Stadium. And it doesn’t matter how many times SciFi tells me how to spell the name of the channel, I’m just going to keep calling it SciFi.

March 17, 2009 at 1:11 PM

I was one of the few chosen for the market research on the name change. We were presented with the name SyFy first, and asked what we thought it was about. I thought it was about a new type of bottled water, or a vacuum or something. About halfway through, the question “The cable channel SciFi is thinking about changing its name to SyFy. What is your reaction to this idea?” came up. The fears in the back of my mind came to the fore, and I exploded. I told them in no uncertain terms that it would be seen as an insult to their core audience, and would take them a further step to being another generic cable channel like USA, TNT, and so on. When it got to the last “any additional comments” part, I reiterated my objections again, and added that their obsession with reality tv programming and addiction to Uwe Boll quality monster-of-the-week movies were the reason their core audience doesn’t watch the channel as much as we used to.

Apparently my opinion was ignored because “Syfy” is easier to text than SciFi. And yes, that was one of the major positives that marketing has touted in support of this change.

March 17, 2009 at 2:55 AM

SciFi or Syfy or whatever it’s called is just going the way of other networks. Take TV Land, for instance…please! I used to have the channel on a couple of hours a day watching classic TV shows from the 50s, 60s and 70s, shows that weren’t readily available to be seen on other channels. Then they started adding shows from the 80s and 90s – pretty much anything you could see on any channel in syndication. Hell, I even saw CSI: NY on the channel the other night! Now they’ve added reality shows to the mix and where are all of the classic shows going? SciFi used to have a nice mix of, let’s say genre shows, old and new that gave way for a while to several nights of original series programming (and their God-awful made-for-TV movies). Seeing how other networks have drifted from their original intentions to become more generic, more wide reaching, and more concerned with how much money they can make, it really should not be a surprise that SciFi is moving away from the core programming model it started with to something more “audience friendly.” That new “Stargate” show better be pretty spectacular if they want to hold the “Galactica” viewers until 2010 when “Caprica” premieres (and that better be pretty spectacular as well!). I wonder what the NBC Universal marketing geniuses have up their sleeves for Chiller and Sleuth!

March 17, 2009 at 12:59 PM

some of those geeks they hate are thoughtful, female, AND part of a core audience that appreciates good science fiction, not skiffy fsckups that appeal to the gonad boys wearing suits.

Well, it was a decent channel while it lasted. the rest of us (in fact, a larger audience than syfy-whatever will ever get) will simply gravitate to quality offerings.

March 17, 2009 at 1:04 PM

They should just change the name to “We used to have BSG!” and get it over with.

March 17, 2009 at 1:05 PM

The outrage I’ve been seeing on twitter and around the blogosphere has been amazing. I posted my own thoughts on the matter early in the game and have been overwhelmed by the number of people saying they agree with me exactly. The SciFi Channel insulted their core audience and said, explicitly, that they want nothing to do with them anymore.

What’s even more amazing to me is that I’ve been seeing the most reaction from women. In the article where all this broke, Mr. Howe said that they especially want to sucker bring in a female audience. The thing is, they already had it. But since everyone knows women don’t like sci fi, they of course need to distance themselves from sci fi. Wow, way to insult the vast numbers of female SF fans out there who were already watching your network, and now probably won’t be anymore.

— Jason Ramboz

March 17, 2009 at 1:07 PM

The best part of the rebranding is the translation of SyFy into Polish. Check out John Scalzi’s post on this!

March 17, 2009 at 1:12 PM

I remember the early 80’s where every new cable channel had a focus. 24 hour music videos; 24 hour sports; 24 hour news; 24 hour science fiction. Now MTV never plays videos,
ESPN is showing dramas, even CNN isn’t all news all the time. Expect the Weather channel to be the next to fall to the homogenization of cable TV. It’s all crap and the only good thing to come from this name (and focus) change will be that no one will play around with the name and call it “Skiffy” anymore. Mostly because no one will talk about it anymore.

March 17, 2009 at 3:50 PM

Doug — Weather Channel’s already joined The Borg; used to be that it was a great place to go and find the latest Doppler when we had rain coming in, but more often than not, especially on weekend evenings, you have to wade through “Storm Stories” or “When Weather Changed History” before you get to the local forecast at :58.

Haven’t really watched much Sci Fi (or SciFi or SyFy or whatever you want to call it); at my age I’m hesitant to get into much episodic TV because I don’t know what will last longer, the series or me. But it’s the way of the world — in the quest to attract a larger audience, you end up dissing those who put you on the map to begin with.

March 17, 2009 at 1:12 PM

I thought they were changing the name because “Sci Fi” can’t be trademarked.

March 17, 2009 at 1:14 PM

He’s not saying that’s his opinion, he’s saying it’s the mainstream person’s opinion of the phrase ‘sci fi’.

And he’s hardly wrong.

March 17, 2009 at 1:17 PM

F Battlestar – SciFi was dead when Farscape went away. I remember when the channel launched, and we could watch Gigantor in the mornings, and Star Trek at night. I don’t recognize this insanity now. I have to say though – as much as I love MST3K, I think adding that to the SciFi lineup was the first taste of what was to come (Wrestling on the SciFi channel? Not science, but definitely fiction). It clashed with the rest of the programs, and them sticking it on the weekend morning slot definitely cemented that.

So, to the channel that was already dead to me, I say: good riddance. Maybe cable will abhor a vacuum and we’ll get a real Science Fiction channel to compliment the Science channel we already have.

March 17, 2009 at 1:25 PM

Cable channel’s biggest growth areas in the coming years are in emerging markets and companies need to be able to trademark a name to get any kind of cut through there.

I agree they could have phrased the description of their core audience better but as a card carrying nerd let me just say that we have a tendency to react poorly to change in any form and get all hysterical about it on the internet… Playing right into their unfavourable descriptions.

But hey, silver lining: I really like the tagline.

March 17, 2009 at 1:35 PM

Ok, so scifi (or syfy) dies because I will just watch their shows online. We nerds and geeks are very good with the computers. It is not like the movies they show or WWE are compelling. Once BSG is over there is really no reason to watch it anyway.

March 17, 2009 at 1:36 PM

SciFi jumped the shark when they started showing wrestling.. I mean, we all know that wrestling is fiction, but where is the science in it??

I’ve been watching it less and less and this is just one more reason to take it out of my channel shortcuts on the remote..

March 17, 2009 at 1:38 PM

I gave up on all commercial television some time ago. There are only a few watchable shows and all of them are oversaturated with advertising.

Cut the cable and just use your box for watching DVDs or the occasional video game.

March 17, 2009 at 1:39 PM

better, all-inclusive, trademarkable solution: Sci+Fi

March 17, 2009 at 1:40 PM

This is a terrible decision! Why would they EVER think people would like the ridiculous name SyFy? First TVLand adds trashy reality shows to their lineup and now this. It’s a world gone mad.

March 17, 2009 at 2:06 PM

This needs to be quoted again – “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.

As a geeky woman who adores science fiction I’d like to thank Mr. Brooks for managing to insult me TWICE with one sentence. And as a friendly, heads-up, there’s more of us than you think!

I’ve seen Sci Fi Channel make a number of dodgy decisions over the years, but this, takes the whole stupid cake.

March 17, 2009 at 2:09 PM

What kind of retarded name is “Syfy”? Die, you bastards, die.

March 17, 2009 at 2:11 PM

Good thing about the free market, though: if there’s a demand, something new will take its place.

March 17, 2009 at 2:14 PM

Hmm. I’m sure Robert A. Heinlein is rolling in his grave at the thought his work was directed at geeks and dysfunctional antisocial boys.

If these guys at Sci Fi really understood their fan base, they’d get rid of wrestling, monster of the week movies, and paranormal “reality” shows and get back to serious science fiction.

March 17, 2009 at 4:20 PM

SciFi or ScyFy…regardless, the only thing inhuman is their programing. I think when BSG is done…they are going to be completely useless.

They can redeem themselves by bringing back Firefly…then they can call their channel whatever the hell it wants.

March 17, 2009 at 4:25 PM

Well atleast it will be one less channel to set my dvr up for. I have really hated the last year or so of the programing anyways with the reality stuff and constant b-monster movies running on it. I thinking its time to just say good bye before I start taking the attacks of being a geek personal. F*** that screw them and let the channel burn! BT here I come for anything I care to watch from that channel.

March 17, 2009 at 4:45 PM

For some reason I automatically parse the y’s as soft – resulting in something that sounds like a syphyllis. A branding disaster unfolds before us…

March 17, 2009 at 4:56 PM

Who cares what the name of the station is, or what some marketdroids use to justify it? What I care about what shows they produce and how good they are. If Caprica is good, I’ll watch it even if the networks.

Networks are dying anyhow… soon that will by bypassed and we will stream/purchase content directly from the content producers or from online redistributers like Hulu.

March 17, 2009 at 5:05 PM

Sisyphus anyone?

What a bunch of morans.

March 17, 2009 at 5:30 PM

vaguely reminds me of an old Jerry Seinfeld (i think) routine about Burger King’s (i think) decision to include a pork product in every item of their new (at the time) Breakfast Bagel Sandwich line.

March 17, 2009 at 7:33 PM

Okay, we don’t get into a discussion about “the reality/unreality of ghosts” but can we discuss the reality/unreality of that Ghost Hunters show some more? Because I’m bored and I feel like being an ass.

Sci Fi has been entirely confusing. There are numerous discussions in my house about how harpies, giant snakes and ghosts fit into “Sci Fi” and about the possibility that “Sci Fi” stands for a new, as yet unidentified title that has something to do with American Chopper and Jerry Springer.

March 23, 2009 at 7:10 AM

and has been registered :o)

At least THAT can point to something that actually has some Science Fiction on it…

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