Since its launch back in the 90s, the SCI FI Channel has been a popular option for genre enthusiasts. In 2009, many fans were baffled by the network’s rebranding and name change to Syfy.
The reactions were particularly confused because the name change does not mark a significant change in meaning. Despite the temptation to pronounce it differently, or see some new meaning in it, Syfy is just a fancy way to write Sci-fi, the network’s genre of choice.
In other words, it’s an intentional misspelling that is even pronounced the same. This might have caused "many-a-sigh" to 'spelling' enthusiasts – pun intended.
So what has changed, and most of all, why?
Many major brands take risks and change core aspects of their logo or slogan – especially if it doesn’t click. Sometimes the change is what it takes for a brand to go from good to great in terms of popularity.
After all, it’s not easy to find something that is both memorable and well-loved. But is such a change always the right answer? This sort of alteration always entails a risk. Sometimes, it benefits the company. Other times, things are more complicated.
Despite what non-fans may think, Sci-fi is as diverse a genre as any. Even so, Sci-fi is often associated with a specific aesthetic and conventions that most people will either love or hate. For channel president David Howe and his team, Sci-fi encapsulates the whole speculative umbrella, from science fantasy and horror to more magical settings, or even realistic ones with a subtle paranormal twist. This is reflected in some of SyFy's best shows.
Unfortunately, many don’t view it that way, and still think Sci-fi is just about aliens, technology, and futuristic landscapes. While there’s nothing wrong with those, viewers who are averse to this type of aesthetic might forgo a lot of media that are anything but, just because they’re labeled as Science Fiction. The name change, therefore, can be attributed to the wish not to alienate such audiences – again, pun intended.
Of course, while it may take a few extra seconds to see them, Syfy carries the same connotations. At the end of the day, the word ‘science’ still comes with a specific set of expectations: that science and technology will, in some way be there.
This is not necessarily the case with horror, fantasy, or unspecified paranormal works. While “Speculative Channel” doesn’t sound like a great marketing choice, a word that nods towards the wider speculative umbrella might have sent the point home more effectively.
Of course, in the end, Howe and his team didn’t intend to change the core of their channel when they renamed it as Syfy. Sci-fi works are what they became known and successful for, and they won’t stop catering to fans of the genre. However, Sci-fi, as well as Fantasy, have soared in popularity over the last few decades.
While they are fascinating genres, they aren’t brands. Having a popular genre name as a brand name would make it increasingly difficult for the latter to stand out in web researches.
Especially since there are many more sci-fi networks out there. In an interview, Howe has confirmed that he chose the title after consulting fans, and it seems Syfy is something they are happy to be associated with, as opposed to the more generic SCI FI Channel.
After all, popular soft drinks or cereal brands, for instance, have their own unique names, as opposed to “soft drinks” or “cereal.” In that sense, Syfy might have been the network's best bet to achieve something fun that is essentially their own, without appearing to forget how they started – or what they do best.
if you're interested in the SyFy channel, you might also be interested in their new Resident Alien TV Show starring Alan Turdyk. You can read more about it here. And if you don't have a cable subscription, there are several ways to watch SyFy without.