By James Hibberd
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - 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 June.
The phonics-friendly moniker is part of a network-wide rebranding campaign that has been in the works for more than a year. It's an evolution that also includes a new logo and tagline -- "Imagine Greater" -- and will be announced Monday at the network's "upfront" presentation to advertisers for the new programing season.
The changes attempt to address longtime marketing goals at the network, as well as practical challenges that have stemmed from using 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 a 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," a series about two FBI agents who hunt down paranormal objects.
Next year's "Battlestar" prequel "Caprica," which is a terrestrial drama rather than an outer-space adventure, will further support this brand expansion, an effort that began on the programing side a few years ago with the launch of drama "Eureka," about a town of geniuses.
The pragmatic aspect of the change is that 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."
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 an 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 some of 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."
(Editing by Sheri Linden at Reuters)
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