What’s in a name? It’s time for cable networks to ask just that.
On the whole this has been another good year for cable, as dozens of channels currently engage in their annual advertiser upfront pony shows. Yet that doesn’t mean things can’t get better — starting with wholesale rebranding to more closely align each channel’s current mission with its public moniker.
Discovery has made perhaps the boldest push in this regard, discarding existing shingles to hang out new ones. So Discovery Health will become the Oprah Winfrey Network (or OWN) and Discovery Kids has turned into the Hub, a joint venture with Hasbro. Discovery-Times previously shifted to ID, for Investigation Discovery, while Discovery Home morphed into the eco-friendly Planet Green.
They follow Viacom’s TNN, nee The Nashville Network, which eventually became a male-oriented channel named Spike, ostensibly because BEER didn’t clear legal.
But why stop there?
By abandoning established but confining niches, many cable networks have turned their acronyms and initials into meaningless symbols. Discovery’s TLC is hardly The Learning Channel these days, any more than A&E denotes Arts & Entertainment or there are “video hits” on VH1. Hell, even Cartoon Network began running live-action series.
Moreover, Fox News Channel host Glenn Beck recently distanced himself from that inconvenient “news” label. “We’re an entertainment company,” he told Forbes regarding his multimedia ventures, while explaining, “I could give a flying crap about the political process.” Damn right, and don’t let that “The government is enslaving us” rhetoric fool you.
Discovery’s willingness to throw away names would appear to put the lie to concerns there’s so much equity in “AMC” that the channel must hang onto those letters, even if “American Movie Classics” is well back in the rear-view mirror.
With that in mind, here are proposed acronyms for several cable networks whose logos have long since ceased having anything to do with their bill of fare:
Fox News Channel: Fox Talk Entertainment Network, or FTEN, certainly works, and it would allow MSNBC — which no longer need worry about its one-time “Microsoft” affiliation — to re-christen itself OFTEN, or the Opposite of Fox Talk Entertainment Network.
Better yet, FNC could become Fox American Conservative Talk (feel free to substitute “Angry” for “American”), aka FACT, which is almost as Orwellian as the channel’s “fair and balanced” slogan. Not to be outdone, MSNBC could switch to Liberal Information Programming. Imagine the promotional possibilities: “Do conservatives anger you? Give ’em LIP.”
TLC: The network of “Jon & Kate Plus Eight” and “Little People, Big World” ought to be renamed UFC. No, not Ultimate Fighting, but the Unusual Family Channel.
VH1: Based on its upfront VH1 appears eager to soften its profile, with more music and less sleaze. Still, based on the established mix of “celeb-reality” and dating shows like “Celebrity Rehab” and “Flavor of Love,” CRUD (Celebrity Reality & Unorthodox Dating) fits, until proven otherwise.
Spike: The channel already changed its name once, but DDT — Death-Defying Television — has a nice ring to it for an outfit obsessed with cheating death, including “1,000 Ways to Die,” “Deadliest Warrior,” “Jesse James Is a Dead Man” and “Surviving Disaster.” The abbreviation would also remind viewers that this yields a pretty noxious concoction.
G4: What does that mean, anyway? Why not switch to GEEK, a.k.a. Games & Electronics for Every Kid.
Bravo: After much thought, the former arts channel should be known as FAB, for Fashion Art Beauty. Frankly, I contemplated sticking “lifestyle” in there, but FLAB would probably be a turn-off to its target demos, in the same way Fashion Lifestyle Affluencers Network sounds tasty but too fattening.
Cartoon Network: Having adding youth-oriented reality to a channel currently best known for “Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” let’s call it SWAT, for Star Wars Adventure TV.
MTV, Disney Channel, ABC Family: Whoever acts the fastest can acquire the domain name ZITT, or Zap-In Teen Television.
A&E: Perusing its law-enforcement-oriented reality shows, “Intervention” and original and repeat dramas, let’s make the leap to Crime Reality Action Programming, or …
Actually, come to think of it, several networks could fight it out for that one, too.