Commentary

Versus Anything Else, Media Needs Good Names

A media destination's name is something more than just the letters of the alphabet.

Come this September, OLN will do what everyone already thought was sort of necessary: change its name, to Versus.

Comcast's OLN changed its name from Outdoor Life Network last July in an attempt to help its growing, broad-reaching stable of sports programming--especially the NHL. The NHL doesn't play outside, and the experience doesn't lend itself to outdoors--though one might need a breath of fresh air in between periods.

OLN was just a transitional name. So here comes "Versus"--a more competitive, harder-edge-sounding name, perhaps a bit more younger male-skewing for a network. Comcast's new horror film network, Fear, comes to mind, as does NBC Universal's mystery network, Sleuth.

Which brings us back to the current head-scratching name, The CW.

Those initials don't mean anything to anyone as the new network from the CBS/Warner Bros. merger of WB and UPN. On the surface, marketing experts have already said initializing networks are from a bygone TV era. There is no need to call a network ABC, NBC, CBS, or even TBS. Cable networks with more descriptive names like Spike, Oxygen, and Bravo are the rule.

CW executives maintain the network already has incredible awareness--more than 50 percent of its targeted young audience. But media experts wonder how that is possible, considering there has been no advertising, only some business buzz.

No doubt it's tricky naming a media destination these days. Other marketing executives say the CW doesn't mean anything--and that's good. You can fill it up with things that give it meaning.

Still, media users expect more these days. If you are not Yahoo, you might be YouTube or Flickr. You need to be something, and, more importantly, sound like something, to get an audience.

In a well-fragmented media world, media seekers need to be intrigued enough to turn you on--versus some initials.

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