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There’s been quite a bit of feedback on Sci Fi’s announcement that come this summer the network will be changing its name from Sci Fi to Syfy. Sci Fi president David Howe spoke to us on a conference call today about the name change, the feedback from the fans and about what the new name means for the network.
In discussing the choice to change the spelling of the name and logo, Howe initially said, “We didn’t come up with a name we liked any better than what we’ve gone with, which is Syfy.” He went on about the process of deciding on the new name and logo in greater detail, stating:
“I think the conversation that we’re having today and the feeding frenzy in the chatrooms and online would probably be considerably greater if we changed the name completely. Naming is incredibly difficult. If you look at brands that launch now, on the whole, new brands have to have a name which is completely made up so it will be a word that you’ve never seen before. You see this particularly with drugs. You look a name like Celebrex, Viagra or Cialis. Any of these drugs. You have to invent a word that doesn’t exist. You have to do that because clearly it’s incredibly difficult for you to secure the URL. So any real word is going to be completely ruled out from a trademark perspective, not just in the U.S. but probably anywhere in the world from a URL perspective. So, straight away, you’re confined by having to invent a word.
So that’s the first challenge. And then once you’ve invented a bunch of words, what you have to look at is the pros and cons of that word. The word may communicate something that you think is good but then it may communicate something which is less good or is misleading or takes you in a direction that you don’t want to go in or takes you back to where you were. In lots of respects, some of the short-listed names that we came up with actually didn’t really move us any further forward than where we are now with Syfy. There’s something about the letter form in particular that we believe – and we’ve had this confirmed in our testing, makes the logo very accessible and relatable. The symmetry of it, the letter forms of the two Y’s together with the S and the F, which are very rounded. We actually see this, yes there is a word there, yes you could argue it’s a misspelled scifi but actually it’s a new word and it’s a logo in itself. Part of the exercise that we went through is we wanted, obviously, to let go of the Saturn logo but actually to do that, we needed to have a letter form which in it of itself from a design perspective was unique and brandable and trademark-able.”
Going back to the idea of choosing a word that actually exists, Howe said they did do some testing on the name “Beyond,” however that’s not a word that they can trademark and there was a concern that the word Beyond might suggest something that’s over a person’s head or else something they can’t relate to. SFC was another idea they were tossing around, which is consistent with other networks that have used acronyms (TLC, TNN, etc) as a network name.
As far as the feedback on the name change, this is definitely something that Howe and the rest of the people at Sci Fi have been keeping tabs on. Howe discussed that a bit, saying:
“The thing that disturbed me most about some of the comments, but if I’m honest, didn’t really surprise me is that this is not about abandoning our past. This is not about alienating our existing core viewers because frankly we are still the scifi-fantasy channel and will continue to be so. This is absolutely about embracing our heritage and embracing our future and figuring out how we can bring even more people into the camp. The thing that I think disturbs us most was people, as we expected, saying ‘Well this is just another opportunity to put more ECW on the air.’ Or, ‘This is another opportunity to do even more reality.’ That isn’t true and recent announcements, we’ve picked up Caprica, it’ll launch in the new year. We’ve picked up Stargate Universe, the next exciting chapter of the longest running space opera in TV history. This isn’t about retrenching, this is about absolutely embracing the totality of not just our core audience but actually, a new audience in the future.”
As for the decision to change the name and logo of the network, one of the questions asked related to this article at Hollywood.com, written by Mitch Rubenstein about the launch of the network and the decision to name the network Sci Fi Channel. Howe was asked how he thought Isaac Asimov (a member of the Sci Fi Channel’s Board of Advisors) might react to the network’s recent decision to change the name from Sci Fi to Syfy. Howe said:
“I think the thing that struck me most about it is, I suspect if we took them through the rational as to why we were changing they would probably get it because if you read that piece, it kind of says that when it launched it was launched as the science fiction channel exclusively and that it was primarily about space and technology and the future and essentially Star Trek and I think that that is something that we in no shape or form want to get away from but I think what we do want to do is move to a position where we can earn the broad scifi-fantasy landscape and include in there, fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, super-hero and some of the speculative action-adventure. I think that’s sort of the object of this exercise. So it’s about: How do we embrace the broader scifi-fantasy landscape as opposed to how to we escape our past, which isn’t the object of this exercise.”