Space Ramblings

Why SyFy Abandoned Science Fiction

SyFy is Dead

This isn’t about the woman looking contemplatively at one of the worst programming slates on television , she doesn’t exist except as a heavily photoshopped model who probably thought she was posing for some ad that required her to be mildly amused, maybe at her new phone or the plight of children somewhere.

This is about what SyFy thinks she represents and what it wants ad buyers to think she represents.

This isn’t just another ad pitching SyFy to viewers, this is an ad pitching it to media buyers. This is the audience that SyFy wants to have.

Let’s start out with the obvious. She’s not a man. That’s not coincidental. Women are where the ad dollars are now.

She’s an “Igniter” who “sparks trends”, which means the ad dollars go further because she influences the buying habits of others. That’s a load of crap, especially when it comes to SyFy Channel viewers, but this is the brass ring of advertising.

Now imagine the exact opposite of this coolly amused young woman who influences her friends to buy major brands by making them seem cool? If you answered a viewer of Science Fiction television, as imagined by SyFy executives to be a fat middle-aged man, you are correct. And that is the audience SyFy doesn’t want, because it’s the audience their USA bosses don’t want.

But don’t take it from me, take it from the SyFy pitch.

Syfy has a target audience in mind: people with a shared mindset of curiosity, optimism, creativity and open-mindedness that drives them to take risks, push boundaries and challenge the status quo. They call these people—who are the first to find and try new things and share those finds with others—”Igniters.”

This their target audience. It’s not people who like Science Fiction, it’s people who watch SyFy shows about ghost hunting and makeup because they “push boundaries” and “challenge the status quo”. They’re exactly like Occupy Wall Street, except they buy stuff, instead of protest.

If you want to promote your new Samsung phone or non-alcoholic cranberry drink to an audience that will convince other people to try it, come and pitch to the viewers of our cooking shows and makeup shows and stuff we put together as cheaply as possible in order to build that quality “Igniter” audience.

Founded in 1992 as SCI FI Channel, Syfy is celebrating its 20th anniversary by embracing the innovation of Igniters. What exactly is an Igniter? To develop the psychographic profile, Syfy has used both Simmons data and a custom study conducted with PSFK. Simmons demonstrates that Igniters are the first to find, try and buy new products and then influence the masses to do the same. The PSFK study adds that Igniters are a powerful force in today’s market because portability and social media have given rise to new tools.

This is a ton of nebula gasses, but SyFy needs to sell this to position its viewers as savvy post-television influencers who will go out and have an impact on social media.

Look at what’s missing from the picture.

The words “Science Fiction” and “Fantasy” never appear in this piece. Superhero and supernatural are okay. Those aren’t, even when HBO is doing great with Game of Thrones. (HBO is also careful to avoid the “F” word when talking about Game of Thrones.) The name change wasn’t an accident. The former SciFi channel doesn’t want to be associated with Science Fiction. It wants to be associated with an audience it can’t have.

SyFy can’t get the flavored vodka and hot nightspots audience it’s pretending to have. It can’t have it because it’s cheap, its programming is risk free and crap. It wants to pretend that it offers million dollar value to advertisers while running a 99 cent store full of crap that no one else wants and its original programming is indistinguishable from the reality TV on every other channel.

The audience it has is not the audience it wants. It wants models who smile ambiguously at unseen things in the air. SyFy has an abusive relationship with its audience. Eventually it will drive away the last of its unique audience and be stuck with the kind of people who want to watch idiots pretending to chase ghosts around a set or who will sit through a show about makeup artists and a third-rate cooking show.

And then finally SyFy will have the audience it deserves. The 99 cent store of cable television will have 99 cent store viewers. Maybe they’ll even ignite a ghost chasing trend and then “share” it on social media.

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