Syfy: What’s in a Name?

You may not know it, but this week the SciFi Channel became “Syfy.”  While the pronunciation is supposed to be the same, in writing the name is just confusing and, honestly, a little stupid.

When you hear/see that there is a SciFi channel (SciFi obviously being short for Science Fiction) an expectation of content is established.  One would expect to find Science Fiction shows on the SciFi channel, golf on the Golf channel, and news on CNN (Cable News Network).  While some channels ignore their namesake (MTV), for some years now you have been able at least expect to find SciFi content on the SciFi channel.  Unfortunately, in my opinion, the SciFi channel does not just show SciFi content.  While they championed great shows like the Battlestar Galactica relaunch and all of the Stargate series, you can also find shows like ECW (Extreme Championship Wrestling) that don’t really fit with the SciFi moniker.  However, in general, the content on the SciFi channel can be placed in the science fiction bin.

According to the cable network’s website, “Syfy is our way of getting our unique programming point of view across. As you may have noticed, we’ve always aired shows that many people wouldn’t consider strictly science fiction: Fantasy, paranormal, etc. Syfy is a way to recognize that, and a way to make our programming more accessible to a broader audience.”  While I see their argument to a certain extent, I don’t think the answer should be to make up a word.  SciFi may not describe their entire programming line-up, but at least it describes a portion of it.  What is a Syfy program?  If they felt that the name SciFi was limiting them is some manner, maybe they should have just removed themselves from the name a bit.  Do something like rename the network SFN for Science Fiction Network, but always refer to the station as SFN.  By doing this they are a bit more ambiguous about the content, but if you dig into it the name still means something.

Despite my gripe with SciFi’s name change, I will still continue to watch their programming.  While most of the shows I watch on SciFi have been canceled or have finished their runs (Stargate:Atlantis, BSG, etc), I am excited about upcoming programs like Stargate:Universe, and Caprica, and I’ve been meaning to check out Sanctuary.  Another place that SciFi has always shined is in their miniseries.  Both my wife and I really enjoyed the Dune miniseries, and more recently their take on the Wizard of OZ universe with the Tin Man miniseries.  I’ve just recently discovered that they are going to create a new miniseries around the Philip José Farmer Riverworld book series, so that’s something to look forward to as well.

In the end, content is king.  As long as SciFi/Syfy continues to fund good programming they will maintain their current viewership.  They are trying to reach out to a new audience with the name change and I don’t think they will achieve this because the new name doesn’t really convey anything new about their content.

By Kevin

Kevin is a self-pronounced and extremely proud "geek". In fact he does a podcast called A Geek and His Wife that you can find Kevin is an Electrical Engineer by education and profession, and a "dabbler" in programming (mostly php) when he's not being professional. You can find more about him on his blog:


  1. Great write up Kevin. I’m glad to see some valid arguments against it being brought forth instead the usual “wtf… that’s a dumb name” argument.

    I’ve had little hope for the channel with the content they’ve been showing and then they came out with this…

    My wife and I did enjoy Tin Man though.

  2. Kevin, you present a cogent argument against the name change. On the other hand, I’d have preferred to see the change go totally away from science fiction, because (from my limited point of view), *most* of their programming no longer falls into the scifi vein.

    But in the end, the viewers don’t matter; the Board will make up their mind based on advertiser input, as always (and it appears they already have). Which is why I no longer watch broadcast TV (to include cable and satellite).

  3. Thanks for the comments.
    Icesnake: I would have been fine if they went a totally new direction with the name as well. Syfy just feels like they wanted something new but couldn’t commit themselves to a full change. They only went halfway: they have one leg in SciFi and another leg out and they look like idiots trying to do the splits.

  4. Great article. I have read their reasons behind the name change and I just don’t buy it. But, if my boss said…”We are changing our name because marketing thinks it’s a good idea.” I would be ticked…but then fully commit. If I was working on the logo I would have went with an alien type font instead of that smoothy font they went with. The whole thing feels wishy washy.

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