24 March 2009

An open letter to The Sci Fi Network President Dave Howe

Dear Mr Howe:

I find it difficult to express in words how ridiculous your decision to go from The Sci Fi Network to "SyFy" is, but I'm going to try.

First of all, let's start with brand recognition. You know what you're getting when you see the Sci Fi network. Sci Fi is a long-established abbreviation for the genre of Science Fiction, and despite your inexplicable decision to air wrestling from time to time, you generally deliver the goods. You've got excellent original series like Eureka, Dresden Files, and Battlestar. You make your own B-grade movies. You've done some innovative miniseries like The Lost Room and Tin Man. It's all good stuff, and it's all science fiction. Personally, I'm really looking forward to Warehouse 13, Caprica, and some more Eureka.

The Cartoon Network airs cartoons. The Comedy Channel shows comedy. The Food Network...well, you get the idea. You're a niche network catering to Sci Fi fans. I imagine it's pretty lucrative given the prominent 18-49-year old male demographic. If you don't want to embrace it, I don't know why they installed you as CEO.

Now let's explore why SyFy not only is laughable, but why it seemingly seeks to abrogate, invalidate, and otherwise obviate the relationship you have with your viewers.

First, phonetically, SyFy is a disaster. If you pronounce it using standard English pronounciation rules, it's Siffie.

Second, spellingwise, it's an abomination. You're a major cable network, not Kwik-E-Mart. Why intentionally mispell an abbreviation so long-established it's practically acceptable in Scrabble?

Third, you've got a great tagline with "Imagine," and your little vignettes are top-notch. What the heck does "Imagine Greater" even mean? At least "Imagine More" would be meaningful. "Imagine Greater" is a disaster. Greater than what?

In essence, you're saying, "We don't like Sci Fi." I don't care what your admen and advisors and whatnot telling you to change for change's sake are telling you, but simply by going from SciFi to SyFy, you're saying Sci Fi isn't any good, we can do better.

Well I like Sci Fi. I read the books. I watch the TV shows. I buy the Blu Ray discs. I'm a 35 year old professional with a professional wife and a son who will be force-fed a steady diet of Star Wars (by me) and Star Trek (by the wife) until he's totally indoctrinated. He deserves to grow up watching either classic programming or new and exciting programming on your network.

If you really want to spend some money, don't waste it on a poorly concieved and ultimately futile rebranding campaign. Trust me, you will change it back, or your successor will. Go out and get the rights to Babylon 5, Firefly, Farscape, Wonderfalls, Pushing Daisies, MST3K, Hercules, Xena, and the old Doctor Who, and start airing them in order, in HD. Extend your relationship with the BBC beyond Doctor Who and Torchwood (both excellent shows) and bring over some of the best SciFi the Brits have to offer. Make sure the new Star Trek series is on your network -- whatever it costs -- the ratings will be insane for cable TV. Start filming the works of RA Heinlein and PK Dick and A Bester into premiere mini series instead of shlock Bird Flu movies. Put Bruce Campbell on retainer and do whatever he tells you to do.

Not all of it will turn into ratings gold, but some will work out quite nicely. I guarantee your odds are better than they will be with a name change.

That is, of course, unless you really don't want to cater to Science Fiction fans. Then by all means go forth with your rebranding, and good luck to you.

You'll need it.


FrankG said...

Brilliant as always Stu...but it comes down to this: they can't trademark "Sci-Fi"...but a made-up word like "SyFy" is all theirs.

Stewart Bushman said...

I almost forgot, add V, Misfits of Science, and Matthew Star to the list of shows to procure. They rocked the 80s. Even better, remake 'em. Matthew Star never once went into the girl's locker room. Talk about unfinished business.

FrankG said...

ABC is beating them to the V remake