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Syfy Channel: Discussion (take 2)


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#51 OFFLINE   bicker1

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Posted 23 June 2009 - 02:49 AM

I'm sure that's true... especially depending upon the specific interest. But some genres you have to wonder. SciFi seems to usually do well at the box office

Or is it speculative fiction that does well at the box office. Remember, a lot of people think that the biggest SciFi film of the summer is going to be Harry Potter, while I suspect that most of the folks who are criticizing the name change to Syfy are the type of folks who don't consider Harry Potter SciFi for this purpose.

Again, that's what this issue comes down to: Ghost Hunters, Scare Tactics and Unexplained all fit within the broader definition, just like Harry Potter does, but none of them are truly science fiction, and folks who are interested in such programming many not initially think that they'll find programming they'll enjoy at "The Science Fiction Channel".

Beyond those, Caprica may or may not have some space fiction elements, but if the pilot is any indication, its going to be a character drama, mostly, and they're going to want folks watching Caprica who would never pick up Larry Niven or Poul Anderson.

I'll speculate, myself, here, a bit. I think the hardcore science fiction fans have done the genre a disservice by, during the first 30-40 years of the genre's ascendancy, driving the genre towards what I would consider esoterica. In a way, they insisted on the genre being too real. I feel that the greatest benefits the genre can offer are those that capitalize on the genre's ability to provide escape for people. I think that the hardcore movement basically despoiled the term science fiction. I think that a blatant attempt to make it clear that "this isn't that tedious type of science fiction" can only benefit Syfy. It will help make room for the type of genre fiction that started breaking through in the mid-1980s, with far less, if any, focus on the "science" and far more focus on the "fiction".

Folks may like some parts of the genre and not like others, but they won't admit that that the basis of their criticism is their own personal preferences, since that's so easily pigeon-holed and thereby discounted. I think a lot of the criticisms, therefore, are simply attempts to recast these personal animosities as criticisms that sound more important than they really are.

and there are more than a few SciFi regular series running it seems these days...

You mean like Heroes? Again, I wish I could hook the main critics of the Syfy name change up to a polygraph machine and ask them if they think Heroes is what they like best about science fiction. However, even that doesn't matter: The question is more a matter of what Average Joe America will do, since there are more Average Joes than there are science fiction fans.

And even if the name change doesn't actually help drive that many more people to the channel, it will absolutely be at least a wash (some extremists will bolt; while some folks with some animosity towards science fiction will feel more welcome and will replace the extremists). And then, the only justification needed for the name change is that they can capitalize on the word as a trade-mark. Denying the value of this shows a lack of understanding of the business side of things. Folks are welcome to assert that they don't care about the business side of things, but that are not right in stating that the business shouldn't care about the business side of things.

So at some point we end up with 20 USA/TNT type channels... and I don't think we need that many duplicating the same content.

Actually, we very well may. As people engage in more and more commercial avoidance (and piracy, for that matter), the value of viewership, itself, plummets. How do you make up for that lost revenue stream? Perhaps the answer is pay television. Why are cable channels, like USA and TNT, going so well in recent years? It is a combination of how much better original programming is being presented by these channels. This fall, the CW is giving the five hours of its Sunday schedule back to their affiliates, and NBC is giving five hours of prime time to Jay Leno. Do you really think that that's going to be the end of that trend? Gosh, if you do, I admire your optimism! Instead, I see a path towards more and more non-scripted programming on television that is solely supported by commercial advertising. Meanwhile, television that is supported by both commercial advertising and by subscription fees, like TNT and USA, hold the promise of eventually providing a stronger financial footing for scripted programming. It could happen. And if it does, we'll need at least four, but preferable five or six channels, just like TNT and USA.

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#52 OFFLINE   SayWhat?

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Posted 23 June 2009 - 03:13 AM

Remember, a lot of people think that the biggest SciFi film of the summer is going to be Harry Potter, while I suspect that most of the folks who are criticizing the name change to Syfy are the type of folks who don't consider Harry Potter SciFi for this purpose.

Again, that's what this issue comes down to: Ghost Hunters, Scare Tactics and Unexplained all fit within the broader definition, just like Harry Potter does, but none of them are truly science fiction,


Nope. Science Fantasy maybe or Paranormal, but not Science Fiction in the traditional sense. Calling 'Harry Potter' SciFi would be like calling 'The Neverending Story' SciFi.
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#53 OFFLINE   bicker1

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Posted 23 June 2009 - 03:14 AM

I want specialty, niche channels.

However, it is increasingly seeming that Americans don't. One of the loudest calls, we're hearing, in the cable television space, is the call for a la carte pricing, because people "don't want to pay for channels that they don't watch". Who wins? Channels that lots of people watch, like USA and TNT, and ESPN, and Disney. Who loses? Niche interest channels. Most will go out of business, since they'd have to charge each subscriber upwards of $7-$9 per month to survive. Some might eek by for a while, charging on the high-end of the scale, perhaps $4 per month (which is the most I think the typical consumer will pay, per month, for a channel with commercial breaks in its programming). However, the path to long-term success in an a la carte world is to serve the broadest needs.

So given that (as far as I'm concerned) a purist's "science fiction" channel isn't sustainable in any circumstances, how much effort are you willing to put in to safeguard any focus on science fiction? Because there are forces that are working to confront a la carte, but those that will be successful are those supporting niche interests that can be tied back to specific, minority racial, religious, and/or cultural groups. Their niche interest channels will likely get subsidized, in some way, to support their continued operation -- likely a fee charged to all subscribers regardless of whether or not they select such channels. However, science fiction won't get any such deference. If you don't want science fiction to get discounted any further from where Syfy is going with it, over the next year or two, you'd better have a plan for opposing a la carte. So what's your plan? Eh?

We no longer need these channels that show everything under the sun. That is what network TV is for.

Perhaps not anymore. See above.

Soon we will be down to 30 channels, all showing the exact same thing. Isn't this why we stopped watching network programming and went to cable, where there were channels for every person and like?

Uh, no, not initially. We went to cable, initially, because the antennas didn't transmit far enough to serve the new, burgeoning communities 60, 70, 80 miles from the city. Then, we went to cable because it offered movies, just a few months after they appeared in the theater, complete and uncut. The ascendancy of niche interest channels is relatively recent. Heck, the Sci Fi Channel and Cartoon Network both started only in 1992. And if the a la carte fans have their way, the end of such service offerings is near.

#54 OFFLINE   bicker1

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Posted 23 June 2009 - 03:17 AM

Nope. Science Fantasy maybe or Paranormal, but not Science Fiction in the traditional sense. Calling 'Harry Potter' SciFi would be like calling 'The Neverending Story' SciFi.

Hehe... thanks for proving my point. :goodjob:

#55 OFFLINE   bicker1

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Posted 23 June 2009 - 03:29 AM

When was the last time MTV or VH1 ran anything close to music? You get some on VH1Classic, but not on the main channel.

I never understood the logic of a channel that showed music videos. Music is generally something that you listen to. Watching a band perform their music has very limited appeal, IMHO. So the only music videos that have any real significant value to me are those that are miniature movies.

There have been some notable music videos, such as a-ha's Take On Me, but the economics of the three-minute movie musical are very poor. Online music stores charge about $1.19 for a 3 minute music video. Meanwhile, for a 42 minute video of a USA television program, they charge $1.60. That incongruity reflects the underlying economics of the video medium, and how it simply doesn't support a reasonable volume supply-chain for high-quality music videos.

#56 OFFLINE   SayWhat?

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Posted 23 June 2009 - 03:31 AM

One of the loudest calls, we're hearing, in the cable television space, is the call for a la carte pricing, because people "don't want to pay for channels that they don't watch". Who wins? Channels that lots of people watch, like USA and TNT, and ESPN, and Disney. Who loses? Niche interest channels. Most will go out of business, since they'd have to charge each subscriber upwards of $7-$9 per month to survive. Some might eek by for a while, charging on the high-end of the scale, perhaps $4 per month (which is the most I think the typical consumer will pay, per month, for a channel with commercial breaks in its programming).


I'm a strong advocate of some sort of AlaCarte. I'm highly opposed to having 50 shopping channels for example or 20 ESPN channels, etc. If I could choose, I'd be down to about 30-40 channels total, but at your $4/ea, my bill would more than triple. Not an option.

One method might be packages by owner. If I want A&E, I get all channels owned by whatever company owns A&E. If I want TCM, I get all channels owned by Turner. Same for Disney or Nick. Don't know how the pricing would be there though.
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#57 OFFLINE   SayWhat?

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Posted 23 June 2009 - 03:38 AM

I never understood the logic of a channel that showed music videos. Music is generally something that you listen to. Watching a band perform their music has very limited appeal, IMHO.


I'm looking more at the music shows than just music videos. I never really inderstood music videos themselves, but they are what made MTV in the beginning. It was like FM radio in the beginning, all music, no commercials.

I'm looking more at shows like "Behind the Music", "In Concert" or "Classic Albums" that you see on VH1 Classic, programs with some substance, progams that actually tell you something. MTV is all game shows and garbage like "Jackass"; I don't even have it saved in my channel scan and VH1 is not much better.
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#58 OFFLINE   bicker1

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Posted 23 June 2009 - 03:51 AM

I'm a strong advocate of some sort of AlaCarte.

So how do you reconcile your perspective on a la carte with your desire for servicing of your niche interest?

I'm highly opposed to having 50 shopping channels for example

This is a misunderstanding on your part. You are not paying for any shopping channels. They pay for the privilege of being carried by the service provider. They are practically the only channels that you aren't paying for, now, since even your local broadcast channels are now demanding payment from service provider to carry their signals.

or 20 ESPN channels, etc.

Don't get me started on the sports channels. And if you've been watching the news, you've seen how the NFL and the Big Ten Conference have worked the system to essentially get everyone to subsidize those who care about this niche interest in football. Like it or not, we lost. That battle has been fought and we lost. So all we can do is suck it up, and accept that sports fans have essentially forced us to pay for their fun. And like it or not, even if a la carte ever happens, we can count on the fact that sports fans have far more than enough power to force us to continue subsidizing their channels.

If I could choose, I'd be down to about 30-40 channels total, but at your $4/ea, my bill would more than triple. Not an option.

Do keep in mind that it is very likely that any a la carte system will allow MSOs to continue offering the current packages.

Also note that $4 is the upper-bound. The average channel will probably cost $2 (a likely price for USA and TNT, IMHO), and some will cost $1 (The Weather Channel, some worship-oriented channels with very low cost structures, and channels that show, exclusively, old reruns).

One method might be packages by owner. If I want A&E, I get all channels owned by whatever company owns A&E. If I want TCM, I get all channels owned by Turner. Same for Disney or Nick. Don't know how the pricing would be there though.

That's a scenario that would be likely supported by the big distributors, but it leaves independents out in the cold, so effectively safeguards the big companies at the expense of the small companies. That, alone, is enough to get regulators to prohibit it.

Indeed, it is the opposite of what many a la carte advocates want: Many a la carte advocates recognize that the problem is not what choices your service provider makes available to you (because there are at least three subscription television service providers serving every municipality in the country, now), but rather the problem is that the large content providers engage in non-competitive practices regarding how they offer their content to service providers. This alternative a la carte movement is known as the wholesale a la carte movement (as opposed to "retail" a la carte), and would impose changes that you, as a subscriber, wouldn't necessary see, at least not directly, but instead would prohibit big content providers from requiring service providers from carrying all the content provider's various channels, and prohibit big content providers from requiring service providers to carry one of the content provider's (less popular) channel on a certain tier in order to be able to carry one of the content provider's (more popular) channel on a certain tier. Essentially, it would undercut large content providers' ability to force service providers to carry all the content provider's channels at some low tier of service where practically everyone would have to pay for all of them.

#59 OFFLINE   bicker1

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Posted 23 June 2009 - 03:54 AM

I'm looking more at shows like "Behind the Music", "In Concert" or "Classic Albums" that you see on VH1 Classic, programs with some substance, progams that actually tell you something. MTV is all game shows and garbage like "Jackass"; I don't even have it saved in my channel scan and VH1 is not much better.

If you look at the audience numbers, your interest is much less widely held than the interest in the shows that MTV shows. Sucks, eh?

#60 OFFLINE   dcowboy7

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Posted 23 June 2009 - 11:18 AM

Remember, a lot of people think that the biggest SciFi film of the summer is going to be Harry Potter


Nope....boxofficeguru.com (among other sites) which is a great site for $$ predictions says "Transformers 2" will beat this "Harry Potter".

#61 OFFLINE   dcowboy7

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Posted 23 June 2009 - 11:20 AM

When was the last time MTV or VH1 ran anything close to music? You get some on VH1Classic, but not on the main channel.


VH1 & MTV show music videos basically every morning.

#62 OFFLINE   tsmacro

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Posted 23 June 2009 - 12:34 PM

I don't think the name change is really going to change anything, it's just reflecting the reality that already is. I knew that Sci-Fi was really no longer Science Fiction when they started showing wrestling and it was probably happening before that, but that was the most obvious sign. I am a big science fiction fan of written variety, the tv variety and the movie variety. One thing i've never gotten though is some of the "snobbery" that a lot of fans of the genre get into though. It's as if the genre doesn't fit w/in certain parameters then it's "not real sci-fi" and doesn't belong....blah, blah, blah. I find that odd there's people trying to make sure that sci-fi stays "inside the box" so to speak when the whole genre is supposed to be about pushing limits and going beyond the accepted boundaries to begin with. Oh well luckily for me I don't suffer from that affliction, I enjoy what's known as hard sci-fi, as well as fantasy and all sorts of speculative fiction in between, if it makes me think and/or entertains me i'm happy, over-analyzing it all just to pick it apart would just seem like taking all the joy out of it for me. Yeah i'd prefer the Sci-Fi channel to be more science fiction than general entertainment but in the end I don't really care what they call themselves (even as odd and silly as the new spelling and logo look) i'll still watch what I like when they show it and give a pass to the rest, pretty much like any other channel.


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#63 OFFLINE   bicker1

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Posted 23 June 2009 - 01:00 PM

I think the inspiration for some fans to exhibit "snobbery" as you described it is that they perceive that the more of that "outside the box" content presented, the less resources are available to present "inside the box" content. The reality is that content is presented in proportion to how much can be made from offering that content.

#64 OFFLINE   mreposter

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Posted 23 June 2009 - 01:44 PM

Two unrelated comments...

Not much of a name change
If Sci Fi wanted to change their image and broaden their audience, why change the name from SciFi to SyFy? It reads and sounds the same. The people that generally don't like science fiction but might be interested in fantasy or related genres are still going to be turned off by the name. Isn't this why Courtv changed their name to truTV?

Niche vs. a la carte
True niche channels might actually have an advantage in an a la carte system. If you find a hard-core audience and give them what they want, they will likely pay a premium for this service. BET Jazz would be one example - small audience, but dedicated and as a bonus, generally upscale/wealthy.

On the other hand, if a la carte were to magically appear many of us would be looking at cutting back on channels to lower our monthly bills. Many of us might drop BET Jazz, but we might also cut back on the number of cookie-cutter general interest channels. Would USA, FX, A&E, TNT, etc, etc all survive? I'd say the lower the original programming content the lower the chance of continued success.
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#65 OFFLINE   Drew2k

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Posted 23 June 2009 - 04:44 PM

It has probably not been said recently, but the name of the new channel is Syfy not SyFy.

It's a lowercase F. :)

I know that will make all the difference in this discussion. :P

#66 OFFLINE   mystic7

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Posted 23 June 2009 - 04:54 PM

Likely as a reflection of how serving narrow interests is less profitable than serving broader interests.


Wasn't that the point of narrowcasting, though? 500 channels, each tuned into a specific segment of the audience. The Hair Channel, The Shoes Channel, The Bald Guy Jumping On A Trampoline Channel. I mean, how many more places do we need to see Law & Order reruns? And I'm not even a Sci-Fi fan. I only watched the channel to see Ghost Hunters, and that show got old 2 seasons ago.

#67 OFFLINE   mystic7

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Posted 23 June 2009 - 04:58 PM

Wow, just checked out the "website". I clicked on the Press Release, it looks like it was done by some kid taking Web Design 101.

#68 OFFLINE   Stewart Vernon

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Posted 23 June 2009 - 05:39 PM

Some things are easier classified than others.

To me, "Harry Potter" is more accurately described as Fantasy. Now, I would be ok if SciFi wanted to be SciFiFantasy... as both genres have some overlap in terms of fans... but SciFi doesn't equal Fantasy in all ways to my mind.

But I think we ALL would agree that WWE (wrestling) is not SciFi no matter how you slice things. Just like live-action comedy or reruns of Saved by the Bell are in no way cartoons.

I'm less bothered by the grey areas than I am the clear decisions to no longer even pretend to stay within the named genre.

For that matter... as much as I like reruns of Star Trek (any incarnation) I'm not sure I need to find Star Trek on 12 different channels.

I think it's nice to have some "trying to be all things to all people" channels, but I'd also like to see some niche channels actually stick with their niche.

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#69 OFFLINE   phrelin

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Posted 23 June 2009 - 05:49 PM

Wow, just checked out the "website". I clicked on the Press Release, it looks like it was done by some kid taking Web Design 101.

Yeah, but they have the cool new icon thingy Posted Image
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#70 OFFLINE   SayWhat?

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Posted 23 June 2009 - 11:02 PM

And I'm not even a Sci-Fi fan. I only watched the channel to see Ghost Hunters, and that show got old 2 seasons ago.


That's part of the point of this thread. Ghost Hunters is not SciFi in the traditional sense of the term.

Yet, someone like you who will follow a show to any channel may be part of the reason the channel is adding non-genre shows.
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#71 OFFLINE   bicker1

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Posted 24 June 2009 - 04:39 AM

If Sci Fi wanted to change their image and broaden their audience, why change the name from SciFi to SyFy? It reads and sounds the same.

But it looks different, and they can make a big deal about the difference ("reflective of our broader range of imagination based entertainment") in their marketing. Meanwhile, it is close-enough to the current name that they're likely only going to alienate a very small group of über-fanatics.

And they are right up-front about why they are changing the name: "It create an ownable and extendable brand".

Why isn't Coca-Cola just called "Soda"? :D

Isn't this why Courtv changed their name to truTV?

As opposed to just changing the name to Turner Channel 4.

True niche channels might

... have ...

actually have

... had ...

an advantage in an a la carte system.

However, the typical American viewer simply never bent that way. It's a shame. It would have been nice.

If you find a hard-core audience and give them what they want, they will likely pay a premium for this service.

So far, the only thing that American viewers will pay a premium for is just-past-first run movies, and mainstream-interest original series with some soft-porn in them.

On the other hand, if a la carte were to magically appear many of us would be looking at cutting back on channels to lower our monthly bills. Many of us might drop BET Jazz, but we might also cut back on the number of cookie-cutter general interest channels. Would USA, FX, A&E, TNT, etc, etc all survive?

With respect, I think you're looking at things through the very clouded lens of your own personal preferences. The reality that you hoped for never materialized. You might cut back and the most popular cable networks that you listed, and you might be willing to pay the $10-$12 per month for BET Jazz that it would take to keep that channel operating, but there are many times as many people who are watching those most popular cable networks as compared to those who watch BET Jazz, and there is no reason to think that a la carte will suddenly turn all those people watching Rescue Me into jazz fans.

I'd say the lower the original programming content the lower the chance of continued success.

I'd say the lower the original programming content of scripted programming, the lower the chance of continued success.

#72 OFFLINE   bicker1

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Posted 24 June 2009 - 04:40 AM

Wasn't that the point of narrowcasting, though? 500 channels, each tuned into a specific segment of the audience.

Which is probably the main reason why a la carte is opposed. Narrow-casting relies on a cross-subsidy model, where channels share the burden of producing deliberately low-interest programming, by being cradled by a safety net woven of the cloth of the viewers' shared responsibility for fostering each other's programming.

The math is easy: Take ten special interests, all needing roughly the same resources to flourish. By definition, half will be below average in viewership, perhaps even below the viability point. Some, though, will not only be sufficiently profitable, but with the capacity to foster a substantial amount of profit. The current system ties the channels together. The bottom five get enough to survive while the top few get less than they could have gotten otherwise.

Narrow-casting, therefore, essentially relies on socialism for cable networks.

Add in a la carte, and all the glories of the free market are brought into what is offered. The top few channels make more than before. Some others below those top few still do survive. And the rest die.

And what are those top few channels? Do your own Google search... you'll find the same answer: USA, ESPN, Disney, TNT, etc. The non-niche channels.

Sucks, eh?

#73 OFFLINE   bicker1

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Posted 24 June 2009 - 04:40 AM

Some things are easier classified than others.

The issue isn't how hard or easy it is; it is how different people classify things differently.

To me, "Harry Potter" is more accurately described as Fantasy. Now, I would be ok if SciFi wanted to be SciFiFantasy... as both genres have some overlap in terms of fans... but SciFi doesn't equal Fantasy in all ways to my mind.

However, Syfy can, because NBC/U owns the word, and can define Syfy as they believe the better portion of their intended audience would prefer it defined.

And SciFiFantasy would be a horrible name for a television network. I hope you were not serious in your suggestion.

But I think we ALL would agree that WWE (wrestling) is not SciFi no matter how you slice things.

Why even bring it up? WWE isn't presented on the Sci Fi Channel. It hasn't been for quite a while. It seems like you're not only beating a dead horse, but you're beating the ground where the dead horse used to be, long after the horse has been dragged away.

Just like live-action comedy or reruns of Saved by the Bell are in no way cartoons.

If you don't think Skreetch is a cartoon character, then you and I don't speak the same language. I believe that there is such thing as a "live-action cartoon" -- a non-Syfy (:)) genre comedy, within which some (or all) characters are deliberately created to be outrageous beyond the point where any reasonable person could be expected to think that they're intended to be real people. These are live-action productions where the suspension of disbelief must be absolutely without reservation.

I'm less bothered by the grey areas than I am the clear decisions to no longer even pretend to stay within the named genre.

However, you're presuming to use your own personal definition of gray areas to judge what Syfy should or shouldn't do, as opposed to just using your own personal definition of gray areas to determine whether or not your pleased. That's a big problem. Our own personal perspectives don't apply beyond our own personal locus.

For that matter... as much as I like reruns of Star Trek (any incarnation) I'm not sure I need to find Star Trek on 12 different channels.

However, those channels have a right to present the programming that best fulfill their fiduciary responsibilities to their owners, before all other considerations except for the law.

I think it's nice to have some "trying to be all things to all people" channels, but I'd also like to see some niche channels actually stick with their niche.

Then you do not want a la carte. You'll have practically no chance of getting what you want, then. Even now, you need to understand that you're asking for a lot. It is unreasonable to expect people who's main objective is (literally) fostering their comfortable retirement to be even the slightest bit concerned about whether Syfy shows Ghost Hunters. So it is wholly and completely incumbent on the viewers to, (again, literally) through the money that they can control, provide sufficient motivation for networks to appeal to niche interests in the manner desired. If viewers cannot direct enough money in that direction -- enough so serving that niche interest that way is the very best way an investor can invest their money -- then it is unreasonable to expect niche interests to get served in that manner.

#74 OFFLINE   bicker1

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Posted 24 June 2009 - 04:42 AM

That's part of the point of this thread. Ghost Hunters is not SciFi in the traditional sense of the term.

But it is strange. And until you can come up with a better name for the channel than SciFiFantasyStrangeStuffWhateverElse, (and remember, "better" is defined by the investors in NBC/U, and they only care about money), Syfy remains as the best suggestion yet put forward.

#75 OFFLINE   SayWhat?

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Posted 24 June 2009 - 05:00 AM

Meanwhile, it is close-enough to the current name that they're likely only going to alienate a very small group of über-fanatics.


Except for those trying to figure out what the 'siffey' channel is.
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