The problem with Syfy

I was thinking about this while driving into work this morning. But, to be fair, I’ve thought along this line often enough before just not thoroughly enough to warrant writing it down.

The Sci Fi channel has decided to change it’s name to Syfy in order to broaden its audience. I can understand the desire to broaden the audience and draw in new viewers. I want more people to watch scifi also and entice them into shows as often as I can. I just don’t agree with the idea that watering down who you are is the best way to invite people to be interested in what you’re doing.

And I know where the idea comes from. Scifi has long been stigmatized which I recognize but don’t understand. There seems to be a general assumption that the genre is silly with robots running around or people on spaceships. There isn’t enough human drama and so while the effects may or may not be excellent, it’s generally considered to be poor quality product. This is so generally understood that actors will say, “I don’t really think our show is scifi because it’s got such great characters.” Is the idea of a good story and scifi an oxymoron? And if it isn’t why do we let people assume that it is? Instead of saying, “We’re not really scifi.” why not say, “Yeah, we are scifi and it’s actually brilliant.”

The SciFi channel had this rare opportunity. They were The SciFi Channel. They own It’s the chance to in many ways redefine the genre for our mass consciousness. Because scifi can be anything that any other genre can be. It can be strong and tragic and mysterious. It can also be sexy and smart and witty. It can even be funny and silly. In addition though, it can be mythic and metaphoric. It can allude to the things we’d rather not talk about without raising our defenses, opening the way for fascinating conversation. It can invite us to imagine that which lies beyond what we know; to set us dreaming as well as thinking.

Instead of being afraid to be scifi I’d have stepped up, embraced the chance to explore the facets of the genre and make it better; to abolish this ridiculous idea that there is something wrong with being scifi. I’d have said, “Watch, we’ll show you what scifi can be. Because we’re the Sci Fi channel; if we don’t then who will?”

ETA: I’ll grant them this point,

We need to position our brand to compete more effectively in a fiercely competitive, multi-platform, multi-media and global world. To do that we have to be able to differentiate or separate our brand from a generic category. There are literally thousands of sci-fi movies, sci-fi series, sci-fi Web sites and sci-fi games out there. If we’re called sci-fi, it’s difficult for us to own or brand our own shows when they’re watched on DVD, iTunes, Hulu, Netflix or any other digital media or platform now or to come. And there’s no way for us to cultivate our own unique point of view. …

But if we created a “SCI FI Games” label or a “SCI FI Films” label, it’s the same problem of ownability. Our current name doesn’t work. But “Syfy Games” or “Syfy Films” does work. It’s a unique and recognizable brand name that consumers will know comes from us. – from an article with Sci Fi President Dave Howe

Because I am a proponent a proper brand identity.

March 18, 2009 | Commentary | this post contains affiliate links