At its Spring upfront — basically when networks present their new programming, sell big chunks of advertising and announce any major changes — the 16-year-old Sci Fi Channel announced that on July 7 it will change its name and identity to Syfy. The reported driving reason for the change was the fact that “Sci Fi” was not something that the channel could own or copyright as it describes a genre that anyone else can use as a descriptor. But by changing its name to something that is phonetically identical yet spelled like a 3-year-old text messaging, it can become wholly ownable and mutated (pun intended) across different ventures like Syfy Games, Syfy Films and Syfy Kids.
By changing the name to Syfy, which remains phonetically identical, the new brand broadens perceptions and embraces a wider and more diverse range of imagination-based entertainment including fantasy, paranormal, reality, mystery, action and adventure, as well as science fiction. It also positions the brand for future growth by creating an ownable trademark that can travel easily with consumers across new media and non-linear digital platforms, new international channels and extend into new business ventures.
— Press Release
Here is where things get tricky: Syfy says that they wanted a new name that would broaden the perception of the channel beyond UFOs and Battlestar Galactica and all things Sci Fi (i.e., its intrinsic relation to geeks, dweebs, and spazzes; or Star Trek conventions) but by emphasizing how the new name is exactly like the old name, well, it’s still Sci Fi no matter how you spell it. It’s hard to spin a story both ways: “It’s the same, but different!” The name, apparently, wasn’t easy to come by:
The network worked with the branding consultancy Landor Associates and went through about 300 possibilities before selecting Syfy.
— TV Week article
So, there is the name issue, where I very much understand the reasoning behind the change: When you can’t own your own brand, you don’t own anything. Landor is credited with the naming, but there is no mention if they did the new wordmark, so I am thinking it was developed by Syfy’s in-house team. Pending any amazing on-air applications this is pretty conservative for such a bold channel with such a great theme. The old Saturn logo is still one of my favorite reductive logos and it behaved amazingly on screen. The new, Chalet-ish wordmark is perhaps as generic as the genre descriptor it was trying to avoid and it is too close for comfort with the Science Channel’s update. But more importantly, the new logo and naming seems like an exercise in stripping away elements, leaving Syfy as an empty shell and removing any sense of mystery the original name conjured.
Thanks to Jon Selikoff for first tip (and, man, were there many).