Mar 16, 2009

Co To Za Syfy? (Polish: What Is This Crap?)

I'm not fond of cherrypicking nor, as Jon Stewart so eloquently said the other day, turdmining anything. I don't want to snark or get bitter over anything. Everybody that knows me says I'm a pretty good guy. Most days, I'm happy, free to be me, and enjoy life. Other days, I'm a little ticked, and I unleash hell on those that I feel have made it a point to make my day miserable.

This is one of those days.

Recently-minted president of SciFi Channel, Dave Howe, just held an upfront earlier this morning. They celebrated the fact that the network had its best year ratingswise ever (they're in 13th place in ad-supported networks and in the top 10 with viewers 18-49 and 25-56, so Cartoon Network, stop whining, you're still doing well despite not having Nick and Disney-sized numbers). They spent time talking about their new series Warehouse 13 (essentially Eureka in South Dakota) and hinted about their new endeavor that will translated to a subscription-based MMORPG and a television series.

But nobody's talking about that.

What they're focused on is the new direction of the network. Or should I say the new name of SciFi, a brand that has been around for almost two decades and succeeded.

The name of the network, launching alongside the premiere of Warehouse 13, will become Syfy on July 7.

Yes, they've changed the name from SciFi to a homophone. Almost as bad as the concept of CN Real. Almost. Their lame reasoning for the renaming is as idiotic as the name itself. Take it away television historian Tim Brooks:

“The name Sci Fi has been associated with geeks and dysfunctional, antisocial boys in their basements with video games and stuff like that, as opposed to the general public and the female audience in particular ... We spent a lot of time in the ’90s trying to distance the network from science fiction, which is largely why it’s called Sci Fi ... It’s somewhat cooler and better than the name ‘Science Fiction.’ But even the name Sci Fi is limiting.”

And just like that, one of the architects of Sci-Fi Channel marginalized and stereotyped the viewers of science-fiction. Fans of SciFi, this is how the network views you. Continue Dave Howe-the-hell-did-you-get-this-job:

“When we tested this new name, the thing that we got back from our 18-to-34 techno-savvy crowd, which is quite a lot of our audience, is actually this is how you’d text it ... It made us feel much cooler, much more cutting-edge, much more hip, which was kind of bang-on what we wanted to achieve communication-wise"

As a member of the 18-34 techno-savvy crowd, I've never text Sci-Fi as Syfy. Ever. I don't know anybody who has ever referred to Sci-Fi as Syfy unless they were talking about the website Syfy Portal, which recently changed its name a few weeks ago. They're too lazy to type the letters "c" and "i," even though CBS doesn't have that problem at all. While it may make you feel cooler, cutting edge, and hipper, Mr. Howe, but it makes you, your network's parent company, and anyone who has or will associate with your network look moronic, out-of-step, oblivious to, ignorant of, and dismissive of their viewers, past and present, and anyone that enjoys the genre as a whole.

A genre, I may add, is the CORE REASON YOUR NETWORK EXISTS!

They may find the name SciFi limiting, but guess what? That's what you are. When the network began, it embraced science fiction in all its forms, including horror, paranormal activities, and tech-based shows which showed that science-fiction is eerily close to reality. But somehow, the network lost focus. I think it was the time Bonnie Hammer arrived. Now, Dave Howe is in charge, and he's proving to be more inept than his predecessor, even though they both thought long and hard about the name change not really.

Look, it's all about capitalizing on the SciFi brand, and they felt that SciFi was limiting and Syfy will sell useless pieces of plastic. Sci Fi couldn't air non-science-fiction shows without impunity and scorn from fans of sci-fi. SyFy can, and maybe that's the true reasoning behind the name change. Cartoon Network must be taking notes.

SyFy wants us to "Imagine Greater." The fact is I can imagine a greater SciFi, one not ravaged by cheesy C-Movies every weekend, not lacking in quality original programming and acquisitions, and not mired with daily barrages of marathons instead of a strong linear lineup and unashamed of being labeled a sci-fi channel. They want the "Imagine Greater" tagline to be "a call to action." Instead, the tagline and the idiotic name change has become "a call to action" to get rid of executives who believe SyFy is a suitable replacement for SciFi and marginalizes the audience that watches it as do-nothing slackers who are stuck in one position and will lap up anything they give us.

I hope Dave Howe fails. Then, maybe Cartoon Network learn a thing about shifting directions for short-term success.

Mar 12, 2009

200 Posts! Oh, and There's A Dragon Ball Movie Coming Soon

I never expected my 200th post here at Thoughtnami would be talking about the live-action Dragon Ball movie. I also never expected to have 200 posts here in the first place because, let's face it. I have a web site, The X Bridge. It has been around for over a decade, and as much as I love that domain, I'm a little more comfortable here because it's more freeflowing and less constricted. While THAT site is currently up, it's evolving into something a bit more creative. I have over 500 pages of articles and such accumulated there, and a I'm changing it into more of a creative outlet, but I can't reveal anything until it happens, so updates there are sporadic to say the least. In the meantime, I'm posting here, where the living is easy, and I can write when I want and about whatever I want and not worry about getting my hosts in trouble. So, for all of you readers who've checked out Thoughtnami in the nearly five years and 200 posts, I thank you all.

Now, back to the subject at hand.

Did you know there's a live-action Dragon Ball movie coming out next month? You did? I guess you're the ones who check out the anime forums and such. If you're not, this is probably news to you. Fox, the film's producer and distributor, already released the bombariffic Chun-Li movie with limited ads and a disastrous box office take. And now, they're about to release a major live-action version with zero buzz about it.

If this was five years ago, perhaps there would be high-profile buzz about the film. After all, it's based on one of the 21st century's biggest imports to this country, bigger than nearly everything that has come since, including Naruto and One Piece. Yeah, the Naruto fans would put my head on a pike for suggesting that, but I don't recall that series inspiring a kids' meal at a major burger chain nor releasing videos exclusively to said chain. Dragon Ball Z, between 2000 and 2004, was the biggest thing in pop culture to a generation of viewers, and now Fox will release a live-action adaptation of those characters.

Of course, it's five years too late, and it's not really an adaptation, but, rather, a generic story with teenage martial artists with the names of the Dragon Ball core cast attached to them. Maybe Fox realizes this isn't going to be a monstrous success. It was supposed to be out last summer, but for some odd reason, they got scared off by wooden toy-looking Jedi, which didn't do too well either. Maybe they realized that they should have stayed true to the source (who am I kidding? NOTHING stays true to the source of the thing they're trying to capitalize on, especially if it's something based on a property many people are familiar with based on comics, games, cartoons, or toys). It'll probably be #1 or a mid-grade #2 on its opening weekend, but the cume will drop because it will be universally loathed.

It's already universally loathed, and it hasn't opened in the US yet (though, not so strangely, the American film is playing in Japan). Maybe the buzz will happen in a couple of weeks, close enough for the opening weekend. But if it fails big time, who's going to be blamed? If it succeeds, are they going to make more?

Dilemmas. Dilemmas.

Mar 9, 2009

So, What's A Better Idea Than TV Everywhere?

Previously, I stated that Time-Warner's upcoming TV Everywhere service is a bad idea. It is seemingly a one-sided idea that wants to implement a pay-per-click model on programming usually found on sites owned by the companies that are typically ad-supported. The whole thing with this plan is that you can watch cable programming and you will have to pay for it. Technically, this means that if you're already paying for cable television and broadband services (because, let's face it, this won't be for dial-up users), you'll have to pay to watch the shows you're already paying for on television if you want to watch it on your computer. And portable media isn't even included in this TV Everywhere (thus making the name "Everywhere" less than accurate), so folks with cell phones and the latest piece of Apple-branded plastic are going to look elsewhere. It's an all-around terrible plan.

So what would I do?

For starters, I'd work outside the box by looking at the world around me and ignoring the cable subscriber model altogether. I feel the cable industry is as large as the telephone industry used to be with no real choice in services and an almost monopolistic hold over the consumer. Instead of dealing with a cable company, perhaps the studios could adapt a monthly "pay-as-you-go" plan not unlike cell phone companies who present many variants of "Go" plans. Create a service that doesn't rely on being a cable consumer largely paying for channels you don't want but rather a selection of the best of the best cable has to offer.

Ala carte done right.

At $20 per month. Consumers could buy refillable/subscription cards at retail stores not unlike Go Phone refill cards.

What exactly are they refilling? What could hold ala carte done right? A digital descrambler/converter with a built-in hard drive that can house a weekly selection of shows from the best of cable. It's cable without the hang-up of relying on the network model. It's also a cross between a digital converter and a DVR, allowing you to record up to 180 hours of television, including local digital channels.

Think it's impossible?

The model already exists in the UK.

This is Top Up TV. It's been in the UK for much of the decade and a pretty successful model for the most part. Combined with the already stellar Freeview digital television service, Top Up TV combines the best of cable with the digital revolution. It's also a reason why the digital transition in the UK was better managed than the transition in the US, which is horrendous, mismanaged, and manipulated largely by the broadcast industry that benefits the most from it.

Yeah, a $250-$300 box is a bit much for some folks, but considering TiVo is roughly the same price, it's likely not a big deterrent as one would expect. Plus, I'd think TiVo would want to be a part of this endeavor.

Now, here's where the "everywhere" component comes in. This service model is not limited to just television. Enrollment in this service brings your programming choices everywhere you are, including your broadband computer and your mobile devices at your command and no additional charge. With room for growth and actual development of new services over time, this could potentially be a game-changer, not only for the television industry, but rather for the way media works.

But if they want to do TV Everywhere and limit themselves to just pay-per-click access on Hulu, YouTube, and MySpace like they want, then who am I to get in their way?

TV Everywhere Is A Bad Idea

Despite what the media tries to tell you, television isn't afraid of the internet.

They're not.

The thing is folks who pretty much own television are ABANDONING it at a spiraling rate. They're abandoning over-the-air television, which is why the broadcast networks have no plans for the digital spectrum they're being awarded.

The whole TV Everywhere is a moronic one at best. Yeah, they could put shows on something like Hulu or YouTube, but people with dial-up access (they're still around, you know) aren't going to watch those programs on those services. They're going to watch them on TELEVISION!

The people who are going to sit down and watch those cable shows on the internet are likely going to have broadband, which means that 9/10 of them are already subscribed to a cable/satellite/fiber-optics service in the first place, meaning whatever profit they hope to make will be a minute profit at best, unless the plan is for the users to prove that they're a cable subscriber and then pay-per-click afterwards if they are. And the consumer market won't sit for that.

When cable consumers have access to tech like video-on-demand and DVR, the need for pay-per-click cable programs online seems not only redundant but borderline idiotic, which is probably no surprise considering that Time Warner, the most poorly-ran entertainment company on the planet, is behind the TV Everywhere endeavor.

Time Warner needs the internet revenue it lost once America On-Line lost its relevance at the turn of the century thanks to wider broadband, and freer endeavors like in2TV, The WB, and Kids' WB aren't really bringing in the money it wants from ads alone. Of course, it would help to actually advertise that they exist across the traditional broadcast outlets. Obviously another Turner edict, "Work like hell and advertise," is one lost of the idiot class lining their pockets at the company greed built and arrogance destroyed.

I Miss Entertainment on Broadcast TV

Whatever happened to entertainment?

It's not like the world isn't bombarded by an endless 24-hour news cycle. It is. NBC, Fox, and CNN all dominate the national news scene in this country, and the fact that some digital networks are dedicating themselves to news is kind of irksome. The broadcast networks have really dropped the ball on subchannel development in the new digital order because they've completely abandoned entertainment.

Despite what Fox News, CNBC, and Headline News tell you, news is not entertainment. It's news. The major broadcast networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox) are owned by Disney, NBC Universal, CBS Paramount, and News Corp, monolithic entertainment companies with a vast library of shows, movies, and specials for all ages.

The thing isn't that they can't create outlets airing those shows but rather they won't. Why won't they? The television industry is cheap. Even before the depression started, the television industry is powered by cheap, overpaid individuals with no talent who don't want to pay folks with talent, whether it be writers, artists, or actors. They've embraced the internet and cable television so they wouldn't have to give residuals to those who created the products the shows' owners get paid for.

The digital television agenda seems to be awarding the television industry for something they didn't do. Older programs are disappearing from the airwaves, replaced by more modern fare, which is disheartening because not everything modern is good and not everything old is bad. A profit could be made from airing programs, plus it could actually rejuvenate the broadcast television market (something the whole digital television movement should accentuate often and always).

The government ads are promoting new channels, but broadcast networks outside the top 25 markets (with the exception of public broadcasting, ION, and affiliates owned by the big four networks) aren't really pushing the idea beyond one channel. And the broadcast industry continues to be defined by news rather than entertainment. Because it's cheaper? Because it's an outlet to showcase their political and social viewpoints? Because they want a reason to keep their news divisions and remain relevant?

I'd rather see classic comedies and dramas than 24-hours of news. And I know I'm not the only one.