Sci Fi getting new name, logo, tagline

Cable net will call itself 'SyFy' starting in July

After 16 years, Sci Fi Channel is changing its name ... unless you say it aloud.

NBC Universal-owned cable network will become "Syfy" starting in July.

The phonics-friendly moniker is part a network-wide rebranding campaign that's been in the works for more than a year. It's an evolution also includes a more down-to-earth logo and an uplifting tagline – "Imagine Greater" – and will be announced Monday at the network's upfront presentation to advertisers.

The changes attempt to address some longtime marketing goals at the network, as well as some practical challenges that having stemmed from trying to use a generic term as a brand name.

"We love being sci fi and we're still embracing that," said network president Dave Howe on Friday. "But we're more than just space and aliens and the future – the three things most people think of when they think of 'sci fi.'"

Though at first blush more fantastical-looking than the current name, SyFy aims to telegraph that the channel is unique destination without being so different from the current title as to lose the network's core familiarity.

"What this does is hopefully give us the best of both worlds," Howe said. "You keep the heritage, but also open up to a broader range of content."

For years the network has sought ways to expand its image beyond its signature male-skewing space operas such as "Stargate" and "Battlestar Galactica." The network will unveil the branding campaign this summer along with the premiere of "Warehouse 13," about two FBI agents who hunt down paranormal objects.

Next year's "Battlestar" prequel "Caprica," which is a terrestrial-based drama rather than an outer-space adventure, is also considered to support this brand expansion, an effort that really began on the programming side a few years ago with the launch of drama "Eureka," about a town of geniuses.

Sci Fi's logo is also getting a makeover. The current purple Saturn image will be retired. In its place is the name SyFy raised against a light-taupe wall. While the tagline "Imagine Greater" prods the reader to reconsider the boundaries of the channel and pushes inspirational liftoff.

Yet for all the talk of audience messaging, there's a very pragmatic side to this whole endeavor too. From a business affairs standpoint, the network's genre-as-title has long been cumbersome.

"We're going to have upwards of 50 Sci Fi Channels in various territories and yet you cannot trademark 'Sci Fi' anywhere in the world," Howe said. "A new logo design would not solve that particular challenge. We needed a brand name that was own-able, portable and extendable."

Having generic name is also difficult when trying to build a brand online. Business have discovered that even having a strange or misspelled name (such as Digg or Fark) is preferable to having a familiar name that could be confused with something else, or would make it difficult for users to find information about your company's products when using a search engine.

"The channel has been around for 16 years and the world has changed in 16 years," Howe said. "Everybody had to watch as a linear channel, you didn't have downloading and you didn't have international channels around the globe."

Howe knows some fans will dislike the change and see Syfy as a rejection of the network's core viewership. More than most channels, Sci Fi has a intense relationship with its audience. Clashes are unavoidable to some degree when you combine a network making businesses-minded decisions with a genre that has the most passionate and outspoken fans around.

"Our core audience will use it an opportunity to question our motives -- they always do," Howe said. "But what we're embracing is the total sci-fi landscape – fantasy, paranormal, action-adventure, mystery ... it's imagination-based entertainment."
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