Sci Fi channel becoming Syfy. Huh?

We don't usually cover TV at ITworld, but this story was just too good to pass up.

A TV Week article claims that NBC Universal has decided to change the name of their Sci Fi Channel in an attempt to pull in a more mainstream audience. The new name? Syfy. (Tagline: Imagine Greater) This move is being made as The Sci Fi Channel comes off its best year to date.

The immediate reaction of sci fi fans on the web? Disbelief and derision. Followed by anger.

Why anger? Because, proving he has his finger on the pulse of the current generation, "TV Historian" Tim Brooks has this to say:

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.

Way to win friends and influence people, Mr. Brooks.

In all fairness, Brooks is listed as someone "who helped launch Sci Fi Channel when he worked at USA Network" so maybe we shouldn't be annoyed with NBC over that quote.

Dave Howe, president of the Sci Fi Channel, had this to say about the name change:

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.

The perception I'm reading from the folks on twitter is that "Syfy" sounds like slang for syphilis. Probably not the perception that Howe was hoping for. (For a more immediate 'twitter-pulse' in regards to the term, click here.)

Granted, we twitterers are exactly the people that Howe no longer sees as important to the success of the channel. Or are we? Another Howe quote:

When we tested this new name, the thing that we got back from our 18-to-34 techno-savvy crowd, which is quite a lot of our audience, is actually this is how you'd text it,” Mr. Howe said. “It made us feel much cooler, much more cutting-edge, much more hip, which was kind of bang-on what we wanted to achieve communication-wise.

I'm hearing mixed signals here. Do they want the geeks or not? Or do they see "techno-savvy" and "geek" being two different demographics. One starts to wonder: is this all a big prank? An early April Fool's joke? He can't really believe what he is saying, can he?

But (destined to replace is already live. And in truth, the channel has content that isn't even remotely science fiction related, like wrestling or the new WGC Ultimate Gamer reality series. So perhaps a change of branding is in order. But... Syfy? Really?

Syfy is set to go live on July 7th, 2009.

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