Was SyFy Portal Ripped Off By NBCU?

With more details now out in the open, it seems that NBCU might have had a serious bluff going on with the hand they were dealt while they were out looking for a new name for The Sci Fi Channel.  In the end, a small, fan-run website seems to have received the short end of the stick.

Read on, you'll see why I say that.

Back on March 16th, I reported that The Sci Fi Channel was changing its name to Syfy. I came out of the gate slinging from the hip questioning this name change.  The name change gave them the umbrella brand they were looking for and could expand on, not to mention copyright.

The other facts that were being revealed that day were that they were using a consultant company called Landor Associates and that they had 300 possible names to choose from.

Amongst all the fanfare and angst that was starting to rise up from the seething lines of the Internet, I had noticed that a website I had been reading, called SyFy Portal, had changed its name to Airlock Alpha during this same time frame.

Further digging revealed that SyFy Portal had indeed sold their SyFy brand name to an undisclosed entity.

I also questioned whether they made a buck or two off the this brand name sale?

In short, yes.  They made $250,000 to sell their "brand" name to what eventually turned out to be NBC Universal. Sound like a lot of money? Read on.

Michael Hinman, the creator of SyFy Portal, has written an open letter to Michael Engleman, President of NBC Universal, the parent company of the Syfy Channel, and it's not a glowing congratulatory letter either.

Micheal calls out a quote by Engleman for saying that "with a ballpoint pen and a piece of scrap paper, Syfy was born."  Huh?

He calls him out because, in fact Michael Himman coined the name 10 years ago for his own website.

He made mention that NBC didn't approach them directly, but used a shell company called New Fizz Corp to buy the domain name.  New Fizz also ponied up for all branding references related to the domain name, such as SyFy, Sy and even Sy.

He's also miffed that they got away with him selling his long-owned name for only $250K when the real buyer behind the process made $16.9 BILLION in revenue. I'm thinking that he may not have sold for only $250k if NBCU wasn't hiding behind a shell company.  At least I would have tried for more income.

But the idea that NBC hid behind a false front to make this transaction with Himman seems sneaky to me.

Despite being short changed, Michael did say this in his open letter:

"And we are big fans of what SciFi Channel and now Syfy does. We like Warehouse 13. We like Caprica. We can't wait for Stargate: Universe."

"And to be honest, we even like you for taking the chance with such a different name, and weathering the short-lived, if not heavy, typhoon of criticism that hit you."

"But what we don't like is when you try to drown out the fans. When you try to stomp us out. When you take from us for next to nothing, and then do what you can to make sure we can't even get our voices heard above the media machine you have created. How are fans supposed to take that?"

He finishes off by saying:

"But to those of us who are struggling to do the things we do ... it's yet another example of how mega-corporations do whatever it takes to make money, even at the expense of the little guy."

If I were in his shoes, I'd feel ripped off too.  Shame on you NBC/U, shame on you.

Source:  Michael Hinman's open letter (I recommend you head over there for a lot more detail on this.)

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