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March 16, 2009

SyFy Naming From A Galaxy Far, Far away...

I often wonder if brand naming and product naming conventions in the TV world are somehow in a parallel universe to my own.

syfylogo.gifToday's news that the Sci Fi Channel has changed its name to SyFy, effective July 7, 2009, has added to my confusion. The channel's name change also comes with a new slogan: "Imagine Greater," which seems to be a little nonsensical. It reads like a clumsily translated phrase of Yoda's making.

The change was initiated by executives who complained that the Sci Fi Channel name was too vague and generic - so generic, in fact, that they could not trademark the word.

In addition, it had acquired a negative viewer stereotype that made those who may be interested in the channel's programming actually avoid it. One executive summed it up by saying "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."

Another part of the problem was that people Googling the channel's name had to trudge though too many sites bearing the words sci-fi. Add this to the confusion around how to spell the name (Hyphen or not? One word or two?), and the name change seemed like a no-brainer.

Fair enough, but if there is a first commandment in the world of naming, it must be: "Thou shalt not confuse customers in order to be Google Friendly."

The blogosphere - which has its fair share of sci-fi fans - is not amused either, with one blogger suggesting that this might be some kind of April Fools' joke.

The change also prompted the sci-fi web site SyFy Portal (a web site that covers science fiction entertainment news) to drastically change its name to Airlock Alpha. When you visit the site you get a notice that reads "Don't worry, you're in the right place. We just had to evacuate SyFy Portal when it destabilized due to some... tachyon... quantum... spacial... something or other."

The Sci Fi Channel just came off its best year ever and faces a tough year in 2009 given the downturn in advertising spending, which leads to a couple questions that beg to be asked:

  • Will this name attract more viewers?

  • Will it expand the channel's niche?
yodaimage.gifThe short answer is that it is too soon to tell, but to somebody flipping through the TV listings, SyFy looks like, well, nothing.

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Posted by William Lozito at March 16, 2009 9:10 AM
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