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November 30, 2010 3:33 PM   Subscribe

The Sci Fi/SyFy rebrand (previously) - was it a success? Yes and No.
posted by Artw (74 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm pretty sure there's another option that indicates a lot more ambivalence.
posted by crunchland at 3:36 PM on November 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


Well the network is still broadcasting, but it's teeVEE, it just deeply needed to be more lame.
posted by sammyo at 3:36 PM on November 30, 2010


Summary of both articles is that they have exactly the same number of viewers they had before, it wasn't a disaster or a success. It was just something that happened one day, for apparently no reason at all.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:42 PM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


"It was a success because eventually, no one cared."
"It was a failure because eventually, no one cared."
posted by griphus at 3:43 PM on November 30, 2010 [9 favorites]


Nobody gives two shits about the branding. Caprica and SGU were flops rating-wise because SyFy is crap at building good character dramas (with the possible exception of BSG.) Those shows became a bit tedious after a few episodes.

It's the lighter reality/fantasy blend they really excel at, which is borne out by the ratings of shows like Eureka (which is excellent) and Warehouse 13. I'd also lump Sanctuary in with those, although it doesn't seem to be taking off like the others (the ludicrously bad fight sequences may be a contributing factor there.)
posted by chundo at 3:50 PM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'd say it's a failure. They didn't do major, sweeping changes like canceling shows and announcing new ones, or changing formats. They changed their logo, but what network doesn't do that, occasionally? The only thing that really changed was the spelling of their name, and it just doesn't stick. I never think about "Syfy" until I see it in print, and I still think, "wow, that's kind of stupid." When someone talks about the network in conversation, I still hear "SciFi," and no amount of rebranding could help.

This isn't like TNN becoming Spike. It's like the History Channel becoming "Hysteri Chynnyl." No rhyme, no reason, just an ill-conceived, short-term, "any press is good press" media stunt.
posted by explosion at 3:51 PM on November 30, 2010 [7 favorites]


Wait... isn't SciFi the one that used to air Sci-Fi, and SyFy the one that airs WWE Smackdown?
posted by qvantamon at 3:51 PM on November 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


I don't watch it as much as I used to - they're dropping SF-based shows for crap like Ghosthunter w/OMG, Real High Maintenance Housewives as guest starts OMG!, Paranormal Investigations - fact or fake, and Wrestling... and... an auction show?

Man, how the mighty have fallen...

Admittedly there's a good bit of fantasy involved in TV wrestling - but come on....

I can imagine greater, as per their new tag line... but this? This ain't it.
posted by JB71 at 3:51 PM on November 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wait... isn't SciFi the one that used to air Sci-Fi, and SyFy the one that airs WWE Smackdown?

No, they've been airing wrestling since at least 2002.
posted by griphus at 3:54 PM on November 30, 2010


It's like the History Channel becoming "Hysteri Chynnyl."

Some womyn might object to the term "Hysteri", though.
posted by qvantamon at 3:54 PM on November 30, 2010


This isn't like TNN becoming Spike. It's like the History Channel becoming "Hysteri Chynnyl." No rhyme, no reason, just an ill-conceived, short-term, "any press is good press" media stunt.

Not really. They wanted to get away from what "Sci Fi" meant. End of. They may say otherwise to not piss off their most loyal base. But it's obviously not true based on the other type of branding and programming they have expanded into.

And you know what, who cares? I'd much rather have a sci-fi themed channel called Sy Fy than a History Channel who keeps its name intact that thinks ice road truckers and pawn shops are worthy of the label "history"
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:55 PM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


So, I have some personal connection to SciFi's ridiculous name change. As it turns out, I once had half a share in the SyFy brand name. Like many a nerdy pre-teen years ago, I was in love with Star Trek and the internet. I mean built my own battle bridge in the basement level of Star Trek nerdom. Not having many real life friends who wanted to go on away missions in my backyard with me, I turned to the internet. I put up my first web page about Star Trek on Angelfire (shudder) and created a sort of Star Trek fanfic/roleplaying club for fellow kids. It was fun and I met a lot of friends.

Fastforward. As I get into my teens the appeal of makebelieve Trek adventures waned and I became more interested in the technical details of running web sites. Though there were hundreds of kids now in my little fanfic club, I wanted to stretch out as a budding developer and learn to use flash and write perl scripts. Looking at the web I saw what was hot at the time - the ubiquitous (or perhaps infamous) idea of a Web Portal. You know, a homepage with all sorts of little applets that you could customize to get the weather, news, stocks, and the like. Yahoo did it. Lycos did it. It was the thing. So, I set about creating a portal for, what else, but Star Trek. Instead of weather my Star Trek Portal had a Trek episode pick of the day and Trek email accounts you register for, you could even change the color and layout of the Trek themed page. And of course the news was all SciFi related.

Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of sources for Science Fiction news and being more into the technical aspects of things as well as not being a reporter of any sort (I was 15!), I wasn't getting the traffic I wanted. Well, then fortune smiled on me when I met a fellow who ran a site with "SyFy" in the title. I don't quite remember what it was, perhaps SyFy News or something of that nature. He did great news reporting and editorial pieces, but his web tech skills were rather meager; his site wasn't thriving either. Naturally we joined forced and decided to combine our operations, thus the SyFy Portal was born. It was a real success and we ran it together for several years.

Eventually I lost interest in my Star Trek internet hobby. The onset of adulthood meant I was more interested in new things like girls and music. The whole Star Trek thing became embarrassing. After all, explaining how you ran a successful Science Fiction site isn't exactly an aphrodisiac. I decided to bow out and left my partner to continue on with SyFy Portal.

You could have knocked me over with a feather a few years later when I read that the SciFi network was going to rebrand itself as SyFy. I remember jumping up and down and unintelligibly babbling this story to my amused wife. I think my 13 year old self would have been very happy to know that by creating his first Star Trek on-line club, he would begin a chain of events ending in the rebranding of a network after his own internet site.

As an adult I have fully embraced my nerdy childhood (in fact I first started hanging out with my now wife because she had all 7 seasons of TNG on dvd). Whenever the SyFy Channel comes up in conversation now I usually agree that the channel has gotten pretty bad and quip that SyFy was much better back when I ran it as a teenager.
posted by boubelium at 4:04 PM on November 30, 2010 [13 favorites]


Nobody gives two shits about the branding. Caprica and SGU were flops rating-wise because SyFy is crap at building good character dramas (with the possible exception of BSG.) Those shows became a bit tedious after a few episodes.

Caprica was a flop because it spent the first few episodes trying to get an almost Twilight-like teenage drama with robots in space to stick. I tried to hold on, but it just got painful. By the time they got their act together, and started writing like adults, (and were getting good, really, the last few episodes were a vast improvement over the first few ones), nobody cared anymore.
posted by qvantamon at 4:09 PM on November 30, 2010


EGW: Extreme Ghost Wrestling. Spring, 2011 on SyFy
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:12 PM on November 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


This does not make a good MtaFyltr post.
posted by panboi at 4:19 PM on November 30, 2010


As it turns out, I once had half a share in the SyFy brand name.

I must have missed the part about where the net registration for syfy.com gets sold for $100k.
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:26 PM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I imagine greater. And change the channel when Eureka or Warehouse 13 is over.
posted by Splunge at 4:32 PM on November 30, 2010


I have taken to pronouncing it "Siffy" in conversation.
posted by brookedel at 4:37 PM on November 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


It's fine, but let's hope the Wi-Fi Alliance start doesn't change its trademark to Wy-Fy.
posted by bwg at 4:37 PM on November 30, 2010


EGW: Extreme Ghost Wrestling. Spring, 2011 on SyFy

This could be on HSN: Livestock and I would watch it.

Someone please tell me the Home Shopping Network has a Livestock channel. My family did not emigrate to this country to not be able to buy a goat off the TV.
posted by griphus at 4:38 PM on November 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


I must have missed the part about where the net registration for syfy.com gets sold for $100k.

I was never part of any money deal. I did the site for fun and had left the whole web development game by the time of the cable channel's name chage.
posted by boubelium at 4:38 PM on November 30, 2010


Not really. They wanted to get away from what "Sci Fi" meant. End of. They may say otherwise to not piss off their most loyal base. But it's obviously not true based on the other type of branding and programming they have expanded into.

Yeah. Definitely--their reasoning is pretty transparent. Sci-fi and the planet Saturn are for dorks and they wanted to divorce themselves from that. I guess dorks don't pay the bills? Or enough of the bills?

As a tried-and-true dork, a Star Trek fan born and raised, I really bristle against this sort of rhetoric, but I'm increasingly beginning to understand how common it is, how afraid marketing peeps are of the specter of dorkdom. And I've become aware of this in a large part because of my writing. I sit at this uncomfortable genre cross-road--the stuff I write is unabashedly SF, and I proofread for a genre mag, but I also write for teenagers. And despite the proliferation of really really dorky things like sparkling vampires in teen writing, science fiction--aliens and stuff--is still seen as too damn dorky for most readers. I mean, the biggest YA sci-fi releases of the past few years were probably Academy 7, a space opera whose cover makes it look and sound like a historical romance novel, and The Knife of Never Letting Go, which is made to look and sound like a picaresque fantasy, at best, despite being set on an alien planet full of colonists originally from generation ships. Lately, "dystopian" novels have become accepted within the community--Scott Westerfeld and The Hunger Games rip-offs, but they're almost never talked about as SFnal books.

YA SF has been tentatively talked about as the next new trend, though--one that will likely largely ride the coattails of a book called Across the Universe by a woman named Beth Revis. I got an ARC copy in the mail the other day and was really struck by their weirdly conflicted-seeming marketing and design. The cover is pretty gorgeous, covered in stars, and there's a map of the spaceship on the end pages, but the title is also a pretty mainstream and trite play on a Beatles song (helpfully quoted at the front), and the back cover calls it "Titanic meets Brave New World"--which seems pretty insanely off base so far considering the content, a soft-SF thriller set on a generation ship.

But of course, neither Titanic nor Brave New World are supposed to scare away teen girls, I guess. And having looked at some of the early reviews, I'm starting to understand (though I still don't like it). They're almost all prefaced with apologies like, "I don't usually read sci-fi" or "I was afraid this would be like Star Trek" (wtf?). And it all really, really makes me miss being 14, and the awesome SF-based fandoms I was a part of. Because we were all girls and maybe we were dorks, yes, but that was okay because we loved Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Moon and Katie Waitman. And I spent my weekends watching MST3k and DS9 and Lexx and Farscape. And loved it, and loved that there were books for me, and a channel for me, too.

And I'm sure there must be young readers and viewers who were like I was once still out there. But I guess marketers just don't care about them--I guess we're just not enough. And man, does that suck.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:44 PM on November 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


Meanwhile, the most successful show on TV is about zombies.
posted by Artw at 4:49 PM on November 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


a chain of events ending in the rebranding of a network after his own internet site

Wait, is that actually what happened? The version of the story I always heard was that the highly-paid branding company came up with "Syfy" and everyone at the network thought that was super brilliant and original, and then someone told them about "SyFy.com" and so they paid y'all off to change your name to Alpha News Network or whatever the heck it is.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:56 PM on November 30, 2010


Meanwhile, the most successful show on TV is about zombies.

I think that's a terrible thing to say about Oprah Winfrey and her guests.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:56 PM on November 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


Meanwhile, the most successful show on TV is about zombies.

I don't care for Dancing With The Stars either, truth be told.
posted by griphus at 4:57 PM on November 30, 2010 [8 favorites]



Wait, is that actually what happened? The version of the story I always heard was that the highly-paid branding company came up with "Syfy" and everyone at the network thought that was super brilliant and original, and then someone told them about "SyFy.com" and so they paid y'all off to change your name to Alpha News Network or whatever the heck it is.


No doubt that is precisely what happened. I just meant to say it is pretty crazy to put together a web site and then years later it's little name ends up being the name-for whatever reason-of a tv channel. And I didn't earn a dime form the thing. I just thought I would share an anecdote, geesh.
posted by boubelium at 5:00 PM on November 30, 2010


boubellum, I was just being overliteral as I often am--I didn't think you were trying to put something over on us, I just parsed your words in their literal meaning and thought what I had heard previously might have been inaccurate.

I am sorry you didn't get a share of the payoff for the domain name!
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:02 PM on November 30, 2010



Meanwhile, the most successful show on TV is about zombies.


That's an interesting take on Two and a Half Men.
posted by drezdn at 5:03 PM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


boubellum, I was just being overliteral as I often am--I didn't think you were trying to put something over on us, I just parsed your words in their literal meaning and thought what I had heard previously might have been inaccurate.

I am sorry you didn't get a share of the payoff for the domain name!


Well then I don't mean to be overly sensitive :-)
posted by boubelium at 5:07 PM on November 30, 2010


Have you seen the shit they play on that channel? That's why it's a failure, because they keep showing Atomic Twister and Super Alligator or whatever.
posted by dead cousin ted at 5:11 PM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Meanwhile, the most successful show on TV is about zombies.

I think that's a terrible thing to say about Oprah Winfrey and her guests.

I don't care for Dancing With The Stars either, truth be told.

That's an interesting take on Two and a Half Men.


Good people, please. The gentleman is clearly referring to Jersey Shore.
posted by Strange Interlude at 5:19 PM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I used to have a strong opinion about this.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:24 PM on November 30, 2010


Meanwhile, the most successful show on TV is about zombies.

The reporters on 60 Minutes aren't that old.
posted by MegoSteve at 5:31 PM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think he's referring to the fact that The Walking Dead recently set a new record for most number of viewers in the 18-49 demo (3.6 million for the premiere) ... among cable shows. Its numbers are nowhere near those of network shows. Dancing With the Stars gets twice that number in 18-49.
posted by Rhomboid at 5:33 PM on November 30, 2010


To be fair, I think the show that Artw's talking about is actually the most successful show on AMC, by a couple orders of magnitude in fact, but not the most successful on TV as a whole. I don't wanna stray too far off-topic, but I do think this is worthy of note, because AMC's other shows (um...not counting Rubicon, which was an apparent misstep) are frequent Emmy winners, and...well, you know, I enjoy The Walking Dead, too, but can I be blunt about this? It's not gonna win any Emmys. Anyway, if it does, it won't be winning the Breaking Bad/Mad Men Emmys. The Walking Dead is a fun show about zombies eating people. I don't think its staunchest supporters, and I include myself amongst them, are likely to argue with a straight face that it is among television's best-written shows. Or among its best-acted. (Admittedly, it has featured some excellent direction, though those directors will probably more likely be nominated for their work on other shows...at least one of them also on AMC.) It is what it is, and what it is is damn entertaining. What it is is also something like three times as popular as anything else on AMC.

Where am I going with all this? It's this way: Nerd TV is mainstream TV. The TV equivalent of this-is-the-way-we-live-now-lit'ry-fiction TV seems like perhaps it should be mainstream TV, as it refers to the real world that all of us live in and it's the kind of thing we're proud to tell people we watch, I suppose, but it's actually (apparently) a specialized taste. Nerd TV is not. That's hard for some nerds to hear, too, because some of them (some of us) have constructed whole identities around this stuff being kind of a Cosa Nostra for themselves, but let's face it: Star Trek would not have been around for damn near 50 years if it was only you watching it. This is actually populist entertainment. SyFy should have their finger on the pulse of that, but they have too much self-loathing to really pull it together...a phenomenon a great many of us are probably quite familiar with. Too bad for them; they could be one of cable's biggest deals. Instead...they're Sharktopus.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:36 PM on November 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


three times as popular as anything else on AMC.

The Mad Men s4 premiere had 2.92 million total viewers to The Walking Dead's 5.3 million, so it's more like 1.8 times as popular.
posted by Rhomboid at 5:58 PM on November 30, 2010


> Not really. They wanted to get away from what "Sci Fi" meant.

My understanding was that they couldn't trademark "SciFi"

Which meant that - in the true spirit of media enterprises nowadays - they wouldn't be able to go around threatening websites and comic book shops with infringement.
posted by mmrtnt at 6:00 PM on November 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Yeah, but no:

Factoring in 11:30PM and 1AM airings, 'The Walking Dead' (Sun., 10PM on AMC) pulled in a total of 8.1 million viewers and a household rating of 6.0.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:04 PM on November 30, 2010


You're seriously going to claim that it's valid to compare the numbers that include two repeat airings against numbers that don't? Find a comparable figure for Mad Men that includes three showings and then we'll talk, but otherwise it's just apples and oranges.
posted by Rhomboid at 6:34 PM on November 30, 2010


I am seriously doing that. I would think that if the rebroadcasts of the Mad Men premiere netted a similarly large number of viewers, AMC would have been crowing about it; they sure were with The Walking Dead. That said, I'm not really sure whether it's significant that something has two or three times as many eyes on it as something else -- it's obvious either way that one of these has many, many more viewers than the other. Which isn't a mark of quality; Dancing with the Stars is kicking both of their asses.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:45 PM on November 30, 2010


(I should also stress that I'm not arguing that The Walking Dead is AMC's best show. I am SO not doing that. I'm arguing that its popularity versus AMC's other offerings says something about popular taste. I'm not sure I really like what the AMC ratings say about popular taste; Walking Dead is fun, Mad Men is brilliant, but Breaking Bad -- which is easily the least popular of the three -- is not just, to me, the best of AMC's programming, not even just the best thing on television right now, but the best thing on television in years. Oh, well.)
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:54 PM on November 30, 2010


It's weird the design site that votes "yes" for SyFy's successful rebranding doesn't even mention ratings, the standard industry metric for success. At least the "no" argument puts some numbers out there, and while it's hard to separate out the rebranded logo from the quality of the shows SyFy's been producing when assigning blame, it does seem a bit off for a designer to crow about the rebranding's "success" if the network's growth in viewership stopped after the new brand (and its associated philosophy) was unleashed on the world.
posted by mediareport at 7:01 PM on November 30, 2010


I probably should have said "most succesful new drama" - anyhow, all quibbling asside there is no question it's a huge hit.

Note that at no point did they pretend it wasn't about zombies, or issue pleading press releases about how it's not really a post-apocalyptic survival horror show featuring the undead but actually a human interest drama. If anything they've downplayed how soap operaish Kirkmans comic is. They went all in, unapologetically, and the result was a smash.

There's a lesson to be drawn here.
posted by Artw at 7:06 PM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


From the "Yes" article:

"although few can forget the bad press that erupted when the change was first announced."

[one paragraph later]

"Few people a year later even remember the outcry,"

So the rebrand is a success because although nobody can forget the controversy we've forgotten about it anyway.
posted by drinkyclown at 7:15 PM on November 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


The rebranding as success argument keeps saying "space age" like it's a new thing, and totally hip. Wikipedia tells me "the space age" is generally thought to have begun in 1957 and probably ended in the early 90s at the latest. Syfy was founded in 1992. Space Age would be retro, not "sleek and futuristic." Unless you meant retro-futuristic, but then the geeks would actually like it maybe...

My point is, I do not trust their advice or opinions.
posted by haveanicesummer at 7:30 PM on November 30, 2010


Meanwhile, the most successful show on TV is about zombies.

LOL! And UNSURPRISINGLY, it's NOT on SyFy™ or whatever the hell you want to call that network.

It's on the previously low-rated network that runs all of those crappy Chuck Norris movies, before those glossy Sunday night shows.And I'm sure that that fact is chafing the taint of Bonnie Hammer and all of the self-loathing numbskulls that have been running the network since 2001 or so. And I'm glad to see it.

While I'm one of the people who'll say that Kirkman's comic book is good in ways that the television show will probably never be, it's nice to watch SyFy™ get their asses handed to them by a network they shouldn't have to compete with.

Sure, the 18-49 audience that watched Farscape from 1999-2003 probably has a very light crossover with the cohort that watches Mad Men, Breaking Bad and Rubicon, but these are exactly the affluent, well educated eyes that Skiffy is hemorrhaging with every new reality program and every trip back to the Stargate well.

I just hope that there are some SyFy/NBC-Universal execs out there watching their lunch being eaten. There *IS* an audience out there for intelligent genre programming -- it's just that the damn network bearing the Sci-Fi neologism just isn't working very hard to deliver.

(Did Frank Darabont and Gale Anne Hurd ever shop TWD over at SyFy? Something tells me that the rebranded network couldn't be bothered... )
posted by vhsiv at 7:31 PM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sure, the 18-49 audience that watched Farscape from 1999-2003 probably has a very light crossover with the cohort that watches Mad Men, Breaking Bad and Rubicon, but these are exactly the affluent, well educated eyes that Skiffy is hemorrhaging with every new reality program and every trip back to the Stargate well.

Interesting. Makes me think of how the last few Star Trek TV series have tried to sex them up for the male 18-49 demographic, but mostly failed because even guys who mostly want boobs don't want to watch Scott Bakula and some dog flirt with a Vulcan chick. It's sort of fundamentally misunderstanding both the demographic you already had and the one you're aiming for.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:40 PM on November 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


That network has been flailing around for approaching a decade. I think 2002 was the critical year where the new plan was To Suck: Cancel the good stuff (oh, sorry, "not renew.") To air shows that had little to do with science fiction. To make movies about giant bugs. To produce work with crap CGI that can be added in post-production, probably with Adobe AfterEffects.

The rebranding was a success — at least, from the perspective of the local printers of letterhead and business cards, and perhaps their web staff, who wanted a reason to get rid of some cruft, anyway. And perhaps the last bit of something that could not be classified as failure ... they have successfully let their fanbase know that the science-fiction channel just isn't all that science fiction-y. For once, truth in branding.
posted by adipocere at 7:46 PM on November 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


SyFy is no science, and little fiction, and...

  • MTV no longer features music videos.
  • A&E no longer features Arts OR Entertainment
  • CNN is cable, but is more opinion than news

  • posted by blue_beetle at 8:49 PM on November 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


    So, the rebranding isn't a failure because no one noticed/cares, and/or it didn't affect ratings? Then why the hell did they bother rebranding it to begin with? A rebranding is, by default, a negative action, because you're discarding some previously-established viewer recognition, because you're throwing away the theme you've spent the years up until now establishing, and it takes money and effort to create and promote the new brand. It should be demonstratively, obviously better than the old, not some namby-pamby percentage point of benefit.

    That makes it an obvious failure. The corporation game is one of dominance, of being right despite the naysayers, of maverickhood and narrative-wrangling. About being able to justify the ludicrous size of your salary by noting the similar size of the decisions you make. When you rebrand your channel into something that causes raucous laughter in the short-term and a tremendous MEH in the long, that is not a success.

    So what do we have now? We don't have Sci-Fi, the strongly-branded channel that is about doing one thing but, by god, doing it well. We have SyFy, a non-term that is like the old sort of. It moves the channel one step closer to being the Generic Cable Video Feed that most channels are slowly edging towards. The cliche goes that there's 500 channels and nothing on. Really, who can actually tell if there are 500 channels? I say that cable channels need a strong theme in order to advertise themselves to viewers. No one can keep the entire channel grid in their brain at once. I only tend to watch five or so channels on the rare occasions I watch TV: Comedy Central, Cartoon Network, Discovery, CNN and C-Span. I don't watch these channels because of some perceived hipness or style of the channel; I watch them because I generally know what will be on them. The entire rest of the band might as well not exist to me. All of those channels have a fairly strong theme. If SyFy had a strong theme I might check it out too. Why the hell should WWE Wrestling be on SyFy, a channel that's supposed to have some kind of cachet with some audience, rather than USA, which is more of the plain brown wrapper school of programming?

    But then, my opinion of the channel plummeted when they canceled Mystery Science Theater, so to me this is just further confirmation of what I already knew.
    posted by JHarris at 10:26 PM on November 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


    I care much, much less about their pants-on-head rebranding than I do about the content of the actual channel, which keeps getting thinner on both the Sy and the Fy fronts.

    It's apparently a channel that tries to appeal to both watchers of Mythbusters and Ghost Hunters.

    I'm sure they'll somehow merge the History Channel with TLC next, with a special What Not To Wear Third Reich Edition.
    posted by unigolyn at 1:41 AM on December 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


    There seems to be a different correlation between sci-fi genre shows popularity and the amount of violence they contain. More violence = better ratings.

    If you want to make a successful genre show, just have combat or firefights every episode. You want your successful show to lose ratings... have it not have violence for a few episodes.

    It's not enough to have violence obviously. But genre shows that lack it usually don't do well. There are occasional exceptions for strong brands, like star trek, or Dr. who. but mainly violence = ratings.

    Why syfy hasn't figured this out, I can't say.
    posted by gryftir at 1:58 AM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


    (God, I didn't mean to be as long and ranty as it seems now. I've obviously got too much invested in this goofy channel naming discussion.)
    posted by JHarris at 3:06 AM on December 1, 2010


    Obligatory link to 2004 Wired article about uncreative network executives became producers of the channel's SciFi Originals™. I'm guessing that everyone involved was standing too close to the nepotism to realize that the movies they produce remain pretty fucking pretty awful, 6 years later.
    We've Created a Monster!: Wired 12.10
    How three programming geeks turned the Sci Fi Channel into the best little horror house in the movie business.
    posted by vhsiv at 4:16 AM on December 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


    It's sort of fundamentally misunderstanding both the demographic you already had and the one you're aiming for.

    This is kind of the biggest problem with a channel like SyFy and ultimately the cause of its mission creep. There have been any number of successful science fiction franchises but they tend to be outliers in a lot of ways. Even Star Trek, the original nerd series, only lasted three seasons and was in constant danger of cancellation when it was running.

    The sad fact is that a core audience of nerds can result in decent enough returns as long as the scope of a production is kept small and cheap enough. See also the Serenity movie (which for the record I loved) - it had a mighty, mighty grassroots campaign and everyone who even knew about Firefly was going to go see it...and in the end, that didn't really turn out to be a lot of people. It sucks, but the numbers just aren't there.

    As budgets increase, risks have to be managed much more carefully and this winds up leading to the mixing of demographics you're talking about. The 2009 Star Trek movie was markedly different from any of the others in the series and was also a runaway success, and the logic was that in 2009 you have to do things differently. Basically the problem is that unless something is a proven moneymaker - and not just popular, but actually makes money - then it becomes much less likely to get a huge push behind it. There are exceptions, of course, like there are to anything, but one tends to see this a lot with SyFy in particular. The channel started out with grand ambitions and then over time the shows they wanted to air were too expensive to be justified by their ratings. The Sci-Fi Original movies are shit on a shingle, pretty much, but they're cheap and that's what matters.

    So they have to branch out. The unfortunate lesson they learned is that you can pander to a niche market - and don't get me wrong, I know the Internet can make it feel like everyone in the damn world loves Doctor Who or what have you, but in terms of numbers it really is a niche market - or you can make a lot of money nationally, but you can't really do both. It'd be nice if they could get away with Buck Rogers marathons and all but in order to keep business up they need to try to attract the sort of person who doesn't give a boiled shit about Buck Rogers.

    Eh, what are you gonna do? It's Chinatown.

    Space Chinatown. In space.
    posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 7:21 AM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


    I think part of the problem here is that while geeks and nerds (the stereotypical science fiction/fantasy aficionados) make a lot of money, and so presumably would make a good demographic, as a whole we don't respond to advertising.

    Remember, like all broadcasters SyFY isn't in the business of creating and showing good quality science fiction; they're in the job of selling your eyeballs to advertisers, nothing more. Wrestling fans and believers in the paranormal might not be as wealthy on the whole, but they also don't use their MythTV to skip past commercials. The people who want and watch intelligent, meaningful science fiction just aren't going to go buy useless crap because they're sponsoring a show anyway. By aiming for the lowest common denominator of viewer, SyFy is increasing their odds of getting the sort of demographics that advertisers want. Quality therefore suffers, and we end up with "Mansquito" and "Dinocrock vs. Supergator."

    I have long held that if we are going to get quality shows and movies, an alternative source of funding to the advertising dollars currently paying them has to be found. Fans have done some wonderful work with low budgets (the Lovecraft Historical Society films, and the Star Trek Phase II come to mind), perhaps it's time to start looking into expanding and funding directly those efforts.
    posted by Blackanvil at 8:13 AM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


    and every trip back to the Stargate well.

    In all fairness though, SGU is turning out to be a pretty watchable and gut-wrenching ride. In many ways it feels a bit like Battlestar Galactica moved into the Stargate universe (with a lot more answers than the former, and a lot less of the humor from the latter).

    I wasn't expecting to like it much, but I've been pleasantly surprised. SyFy has made a ton of missteps and I hate the direction that they are going with things like Ghost Hunters and Fake or Fact, or whatever it's called, but Stargate Universe hasn't turned out to be one of those mistakes.
    posted by quin at 8:23 AM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


    That's why it's a failure, because they keep showing Atomic Twister and Super Alligator or whatever.

    As a horror fan, I was excited when SF started making their own movies. But the terrible, '90s-era CGI they use in every single one is so horrible as to be unwatchable. Most of this isn't even up to the quality of Hercules/Xena.

    Also, I don't get the ghost hunter shows. These guys are paid to hunt ghosts, but are afraid of their own shadows? Supernatural did an excellent job of parodying them.

    One big plus, though: I like that they're still showing -- late at night when no one is watching, but still -- the Lionsgate/After Dark movies. Between that and AMC's October horror fest (which seems to still be continuing), at least TV horror isn't dead (I'll withhold judgment on the zombie show -- haven't seen it).
    posted by coolguymichael at 8:28 AM on December 1, 2010


    Griphus wrote: "This could be on HSN: Livestock and I would watch it.
    Someone please tell me the Home Shopping Network has a Livestock channel. My family did not emigrate to this country to not be able to buy a goat off the TV."

    My dad watches live cattle auctions on the RFD-TV network. So yes, you can probably buy a goat off the tv, or at least off of the internet.

    posted by cass at 8:37 AM on December 1, 2010


    The people who want and watch intelligent, meaningful science fiction just aren't going to go buy useless crap because they're sponsoring a show anyway. By aiming for the lowest common denominator of viewer, SyFy is increasing their odds of getting the sort of demographics that advertisers want.
    posted by Blackanvil


    This is one of those things that might feel true, but doesn't really hold up to scrutiny. Networks want affluent viewers because the ad dollars are big with them. Networks would much rather get a bunch of rich educated people to watch (if they can) than the same number of average WWE or Sharktopus watchers. The ad dollars are bigger for luxury car commercials than for Snuggies. However, Syfy knows how to get the latter group, while the former group is finicky and less predictable. Obviously these are generalizations but generally they might prefer 2 million wealthier people to 2.5 poor ones, but instead they choose shows that skew to a definite 3 million rather than the maybe that is aiming at the more affluent viewers. The more ambitious shows have breakout hits, but smart shows can also be punished with excruciatingly low ratings if they don't find the audience that would actually appreciate them (which is out there, but doesn't necessarily find the show until it comes out on DVD and spreads around). Terriers is a current show that fits that mold and is sure to be cancelled. Eventually shows being monetarily rewarded in more of a Netflix way, where (I hope) they make nearly as much money being watched by people a few years down the line, is what I think will have chance of increasingly and rewarding quality in television.
    posted by haveanicesummer at 10:05 AM on December 1, 2010


    I think 2002 was the critical year where the new plan was To Suck

    Would that be: To boldly suck, where no show has sucked before?
    posted by philipy at 10:08 AM on December 1, 2010


    I'm guessing that everyone involved was standing too close to the nepotism to realize that the movies they produce remain pretty fucking pretty awful, 6 years later.

    I figured they were intentionally campy. I think they're hilarious - I pretty much run SyFy in the background all day Saturday while doing work around the house, just for the shitty monster movies.
    posted by chundo at 10:10 AM on December 1, 2010


    nerd alert!
    posted by mrgrimm at 10:48 AM on December 1, 2010


    The rebranding seems more like a successful exercise rather than a long term plan to truly shape the direction and image of the network.
    posted by ZeusHumms at 8:57 PM on December 1, 2010


    Does NBC-Universal's abandomnent of proper spelling make the "Sci-Fi" moniker available to a competing Disney, Viacom or Fox initiative?

    If so, NBC-U has double-downed on marketing stupidity as any new Sci-Fi network would be in position to take credit for Farscape, Invisible Man and First Wave. I hear Canada's got a pretty good outlet in the SPACE Channel -- how much VC financing would it require to start broadcasting the Space Channel on satellite providers in the US? Cable?

    Even to offer competition to NBC-U's SyFy would be a big step forward. The only problem is that NBC-U is the 800-lb. gorilla in the room, with the money, resources, existing licenses and connections to challenge out any upstart. That said, a network that specialized in (dubbed?) foreign horror, anime and science-fiction might be able to find legs in an international marketplace, especially if that broadcaster could gain access to some of the AUS and NZ film libraries that haven't gotten much exposure outside of SE Asia.

    (By that same note, there's prenty of genre content from the UK that's simply evaporated out of US broadcast circulation. There's so much content out there at this point, the good programming could be curated out of a vault, rather than just solicited from a touch-and-go Producer and Show-Runner. What's tonight's Hammer film? What are Harlan Ellison's favorite episodes of Babylon 5? His favorite movies? What about a Kevin Smith Day? A Gale Anne Hurd Day? A pre-Hollywood John Woo Day? Where it was premium cable or commercially subsidized, a network like this could work. FEARnet is roadcast going strong and AFAIK they are only broadcast on Comcast.
    posted by vhsiv at 8:44 AM on December 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


    FEARnet is roadcast going strong and AFAIK they are only broadcast on Comcast.
    posted by vhsiv at 9:06 AM on December 4, 2010


    In all fairness though, SGU is turning out to be a pretty watchable and gut-wrenching ride.

    it can be pretty good, but has a problem with starting to go places then mashing the reset button hard... Also they never quite let Robert Carlyle be the interesting character he needs to be - he's far too transparently up to no good and so basically just becomes Crap Baltar or Doctor Zachary Smith.

    Still, I'm still watching the damn thing.
    posted by Artw at 11:20 AM on December 4, 2010


    Well, until it's cancelled. Crap.

    That leaves no big spaceship shows on TV. WTF, television?
    posted by Artw at 3:16 PM on December 16, 2010


    Well that's some bullshit.
    posted by quin at 3:18 PM on December 16, 2010


    Valuable airtime that could no doubt be better used for GHOSTWRESTLING TO THE MAX.
    posted by Artw at 3:19 PM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


    That leaves no big spaceship shows on TV. WTF, television?

    Has "V" been canceled?



    And if not, why?
    posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:22 PM on December 16, 2010


    I'm not sure V really counts as a thing.
    posted by Artw at 3:23 PM on December 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


    The Face of Syfy: Howe to Hammer Away a Channel
    posted by Artw at 7:40 AM on December 28, 2010


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