Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The channel's the same, but the name isn't

Back in July, NBC-Universal rebranded the 17 year old Sci-Fi Channel as Syfy, hoping to keep the channel relevant to the youth demographic advertisers supposedly covet more than anything. It was a cosmetic change, nothing more. The network's content remains the same. Cheesy direct-to-video horror movies, ECW, and original series like Ghost Hunters and Scare Tactics. The latter, now hosted by actor-comedian Tracy Morgan (30 Rock) begins a new season on Oct. 6, and is Syfy's answer to Punk'd and all of the other prank shows inspired by Candid Camera.

Earlier this week, Nickelodeon decided to give itself a bit of a facelift. Gone is the splotch logo that has been Nick's trademark for 30 years. In its place is a trade dress logo that is also used on sister networks Nick, Jr. (formerly Noggin) and Teen Nick (formerly The N). Again, they're cosmetic changes, in this case to better identify the channels, as the content remains the same.

At the same time, MTV Networks, which owns the Nick trilogy, also changed BET-J (formerly BET Jazz) to Centric. This change, on the surface, is more than cosmetic, such that certain cable providers have not been given the channel's current program schedule. Instead, all they give is a steady stream of "To be announced" listings. This should last through the end of the week at the very least. BET-J played some of the same R & B and hip-hop videos that sister network BET does, plus reruns of shows such as The Montel Williams Show and Judge Karen. I am not sure if Centric will maintain the same lineup or make wholesale changes in order to distinguish itself from BET.

Meanwhile, while it hasn't changed its name----yet----Cartoon Network might be inclined to do just that, given how it's integrated live-action programming into their schedule the last couple of years. Their Adult Swim division has run repeats of Pee-Wee's Playhouse and Saved by the Bell, the latter to help sister network TBS with their contract. CN, meanwhile, experimented with original programming, but Out of Jimmy's Head fell victim to the writer's strike of 2007-8 and was cancelled, and the much ballyhooed "CN Real" block hasn't performed as well as hoped. And, yet, CN suits insist on forging ahead, ignoring the pleas of long time viewers who'd rather see the channel adhere to its mission statement.

Back to MTV Networks. MTV itself plays mostly reality TV reruns, be it their own or repurposed from either their sister networks (i.e. VH1, CMT) or elsewhere, confining music videos to morning hours. If you want your video fix, you have to basically go to their website, which is the only way they can justify continuing their Video Music Awards every September. The 16th annual edition elicited some controversy earlier this month, but it would generate more buzz if the suits actually gave a rat's tail and reversed course. MTV, and for that matter, VH1 & CMT, have become shells of their old selves because of the corporate obsession over using reality shows to get ratings. In time, reality TV will become irrelevant again, and then, the suits will have heavy decisions to make. Those decisions have to be the right ones, as far as the viewers are concerned, because they're the ones who matter the most, not the ratings and ad dollars generated. It's time these clueless executives learned that basic tenet, before it's too late.

No comments: