all but rather Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, the rowdy party girl from the
reality series “Jersey Shore.”
So maybe it’s not surprising that last week the
29-year-old network bowed to the inevitable and finally scraped the
legend “Music Television” off its corporate logo.
The change was a belated acknowledgment of what has been obvious for years:
But the shift is significant because, in an era of
rapid technological change and microscopic attention spans, how
networks identify themselves matters more than ever, experts say.
president of Syfy, home of such series as “Stargate Universe” and the
now-defunct “Battlestar Galactica.” Howe says the right brand is
essential “to cut through the noise and clutter of the media explosion”
bedeviling the TV industry.
And he should know. Last summer, his network
underwent a controversial name change, from the Sci-Fi Channel to Syfy,
a made-up word that Twitter users said looked more like the name of a
mop or a gossip magazine than that of a cable network. One newspaper
called it the “dumbest rebranding ever.”
But Howe says the name change has reenergized the
network and sharpened its identity. Because it referred to a
well-established genre, “sci-fi” could not be trademark-protected, an
important consideration for a network looking to establish a
distinctive identity. Also, he said, sci-fi evoked images of “space,
aliens and the future,” turning off some viewers and advertisers.
“We totally expected there to be a backlash from
core sci-fi fans,” Howe said. But the shift has “far exceeded our
expectations . … It’s opened up the network to a broader range of
viewers” and helped boost ratings.
For its part,
Other networks have gone much further. In 2003,
rebranded the New TNN, which itself rose from the ashes of the
Nashville Network, as Spike TV, a network targeted aggressively at
males. (It’s now simply called Spike.) The Learning Channel was
originally an outpost for little-watched educational fare; as TLC, it
booted the explicit reference to self-improvement and achieved
household recognition as the purveyor of the pop-culture smash “Jon
& Kate Plus 8.”
Often, outlets extensively overhaul programming — and chase higher ratings — without changing their names at all.
Over the years, Bravo has moved away from foreign
and art movies and reinvented itself as an outpost of such hip reality
shows as “Queer Eye” and “Top Chef.” A&E’s now-defunct fine-arts
shows, such as “Breakfast With the Arts,” are a far cry from “Gene
Simmons Family Jewels” and the other decidedly un-artsy reality shows
that now rule the channel.
Howe says the generic names — Music Television, Sci-Fi,
— date from the dawn of multi-channel television, when it was enough to
tell viewers you were offering a certain type of programming. That
approach poses problems in today’s teeming media market.
“It’s too old-fashioned,” he said. “You might as well be called Milk or Gas.”
That shift signified that the company’s focus now encompassed a broad
range of tech products, such as the iPhone and the iPod. While the name
change might seem minor, consumers do absorb such branding shifts over
Kalb said he often tests students to see whether they recognize the
But other analysts, while conceding the importance
of brands, wonder whether such marketing concepts will matter in what
might be shaping up as a post-network age.
(c) 2010, Los Angeles Times.
Visit the Los Angeles Times on the Internet at http://www.latimes.com/
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.