advertising and other stuff. no, really.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Easy there, SighFy.

I’m glad the network is all Lady GaGa over its recent ratings and ad revenue increase. They’ve gone from one demo geeky guys et al. to another (older women). Yeah, and...? Regardless of the buzz over the renaming (and its slow as hell website), its problem always seemed to be one of programming. Wasn’t a fan of the name change mah-self.

The “if” part of the tagline equation from the previous iteration was the real heart of imagination and sci-fi. That was about the idea of possibilities. The current Imagine Greater seems too aspirational.

As one response to the Ad Age piece summed things up:

I still hate the name change. Unfortunately, since the owners decided to change the program mix more and more away from anything that fits the definition of “science fiction”, then the name change fits.

It is the change in programs that they air that is drawing in a different audience. Why is it that every cable channel that seems to have a niche wants to broaden their audience by straying from what they are supposed to be?

I’m a pretty major horror slash sci-fi freak, and right now, SyFy is generally the last channel I turn to for either genre. Over time, I think Fox, FX and a few others have created better original series. SyFy feels like where reruns go to die.

Call it Lifetime Lite™ for female science fiction fans. Can’t wait until they roll out the MySyFy brand extension.

Before the channel fanboys jump on this one, look at the website. (The, slow-loading website among other things.*) It’s trying for portal status with sections like Art & Design, Culture and Fidgit | Gaming. This approach has even extended to the TV experience. I don’t mind a rebrand if the new thing makes you go wow, but as a hardcore fan, this doesn’t.

Maybe they’re okay with that though because in their minds, the channel was never about fans like me. Their loss, because there’s still room out there for a kick-ass Sci-Fi horror channel. Imagine Greater?

Okay, how about imagining a Tarantino and Co. creating the ultimate site? One with online streaming of every badploitation sci-fi flick he grew up watching. Original shorts from known directors. A site that ties in with hardcore gamers and live events in a way SyFy doesn’t currently do. (And so on.)

In place of those things though, you’re left with a generic sci-fi experience watered down for the masses. All networks need shows with passionate fans. You have to ask what original show has given the network the obsessiveness of a Lost, an X-Files, a Star Trek TNG?

Maybe, Stargate. Battlestar Galactica was about the only show I watched but it was killed after a relatively short run. Caprica now fills the void in terms of a BG backstory. (They also offer free music to go along with the show.) Here’s hoping that Space 1999 remake happens though! (I’m such a kidder.) Also too soon to see how Warehouse 13 does in the long run. Ghost Hunters? Cool, but I’d hate to see the channel go all reality show.

Should you have to scrounge around to find hits though? They’re a science fiction channel—that’s what they do. You’d hope they’d have more hits than misses in the genre. After that, all they seem to have is reruns. (Forget reruns in terms of movies either.)

Speaking of flicks, check out their original titles. Are you hot for Aztec Rex? I know I am. Tell me that’s not an ancient Mexican T-Rex with lasers in its nostrils.**

Our Lady of Land of the Lost, pray for us.

What good is promoting a brand if the product still needs work. I don’t mean a website makeover or integration with museums, but a commitment to owning the genre for real fans.

Instead, they have a site that appeals to fans’ moms.

*Really? The search function on the bottom of the page?
**All ancient Mexican T-Rexes had lasers in their nostrils.


Ben Kunz said...

Bill, I called this back in March 2009. I think what you missed is cable TV networks don't exist to serve content to audiences; they exist to serve *audiences* to advertisers. SyFy had to find a new audience because the old one was leaving cable TV.

You raise a good point that cable nets risk diluting their value if they broaden content too far. But think about the audience. Science fiction fans skew young and male, the earliest adopters of technology -- and a wave of eyeballs leaving traditional cable TV. You seem to be a sci-fi fan. Do you spend hours in front of cable, Bill, or a computer? Young men also often have less income (since wealth is a function of age) and be focused on a limited product set (gizmos, cars, razors). Women of all stripes, on the other hand, account for 80% of discretionary spending, buy everything for the household, and are a sweet audience to serve to advertisers. Older women are more likely to have higher incomes, another draw for marketers.

I wouldn't blame SyFy for leaving its fans. I'd fess up, and blame Sci Fi's original fans for leaving it. TLC did the same thing a few years back (um, remember "The Learning Channel" human anatomy shows? All gone now.). If you ran a cable net and saw forecasts of your audience going out the door, the smartest thing to do is go find another audience. SyFy, very well played.

mtlb said...

“I think what you missed is cable TV networks don't exist to serve content to audiences; they exist to serve *audiences* to advertisers.”

It’s a good point, and applicable to all channels/TV, but it’s not the primary, even secondary focus of the rant—because this is from a fan’s POV.

And fans don’t care about how a program is sold in, they just want to watch something cool as evidenced by this idea:

“I'd fess up, and blame Sci Fi's original fans for leaving it.”

And why do fans leave something in the first place though: It’s not something they themselves do on a whim, it’s the network (or band, actor, etc.,) who changes what they do to cause them to leave. I’ve never heard someone leave or give up something and say “I’m outta here—this channels keeps showing me cool stuff.”

TV is still personal for people. It doesn’t have the issues that products which become cool and lose that appeal have because nobody really knows what you watch (unless you tell them.)

A certain phone or type of sneakers may become played out in terms of what’s hot-what’s not, but you don’t stop watching a channel you like—unless they do something to change it on you.

(Speaking of, one thing you may have noticed with media and who controls it in light of the Scripps vs. Cablevision battle, hypothetically of course, but if I’m paying a monthly fee as a subscriber, don’t I get a say in how the channel’s programming is shaped?)

As for who spends the money, of course women make a lot of the purchasing decisions, but I am never in favor of trading one demo for another. Why not appeal to both?

Again, this just opens the door for a new network to fill that gap in the genre. Look at the success of G4? Hardly appeals to moms. (I probably just jinxed it now, watch.)

Well played, who won, who lost, etc. SyFy think they won in their own mind. I say sci-fi viewers and fans lost.

(And I don’t mean the bandwagon fans who have now jumped on this LifeTime version of SighFi either.)