The channel was launched on September 24, 1992 as a joint venture between Paramount Pictures, USA Networks, and Universal Pictures. In that time, network programming included the 1960s television series Dark Shadows, the film serial Flash Gordon, and other science fiction movies and series.
The channel was seen as a natural fit with classic film and television series that both studios had in their vaults, including Rod Serling’s Night Gallery (from Universal TV) and Paramount’s Star Trek and classic Universal horror films such as Dracula and Frankenstein. Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and author Isaac Asimov were among those on the advisory board.In 1997, Seagram, which bought MCA in 1995, purchased Viacom’s interest in USA and Sci Fi, and sold the networks to Barry Diller in 1998 to form USA Networks, Inc. Diller later sold USA’s non-shopping (film and TV) assets, including Sci-Fi, to Universal’s then-parent Vivendi Universal in 2002. Vivendi’s film, television, and cable TV assets were then merged with General Electric’s NBC to form NBC Universal in 2004. A high definition version of the channel launched on October 3, 2007 on DIRECTV, on Comcast on April 15, 2008, and Dish Network on April 18, 2008.
On March 16, 2009, Sci Fi announced that it is planning to change its name to Syfy, to end confusion over how to capitalize and stylize their name and as part of an on-going rebranding effort. Network officials also noted that, unlike the generic term “sci fi” which represents the entire science fiction genre, the term “Syfy” can be protected by trademark and therefore would be easier to market on other goods or services without fear of confusion with other companies’ products.
The only significant previous use of the term “syfy” in relation to science fiction was by the website SyFy Portal, which became Airlock Alpha after selling the brand to NBC Universal (represented by a shell company) in February; there are however a number of unrelated firms using the similar term “syfi”, such as information technology company SyFi Global. The new name is scheduled to take effect on July 7, 2009.