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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Australia welcomes digital TV channels with stupid names

When Aussie TV networks started launching their new digital channels, it was clear they weren't quite sure what to call them. So they just bunged a “2” on the end: ABC2, SBS2, 7Two. It was a second channel, it made sense. Ditto for ABC3 and SBS3. Logical, sensible channel names.

Then Nine launched GO!, which despite being named after the cult 90s Katie Holmes film (right down to the redundant exclamation mark) had nothing to do with raves or ecstasy use. Probably for the best, that. Still, it made sense as a channel name – it was youthful, dynamic, punchy. OK, I'll pay that – and at least they didn't call it “OMG” or “LOL”.

And this one only tested well with seals.

But now it seems the networks have just given up. Just take a look at the names of our latest two digital channels – 7mate and Gem.

7mate? What the hell is that? Did they get the work experience kid to come up with that one? Call me cynical, but I reckon the planning meeting behind naming Seven's new channel went something like this:

Exec 1: We're just three months away from launching this thing, what the hell are we going to call it?

Exec 2: OK, let's think about this. This channel's going to be for men, right? So what do men like?

Exec 1: Beer?

Exec 2: That's good, that's good. But 7beer doesn't really work. And it might contravene alcohol advertising regulations.

Exec 1: Boobs? Could we call it 7boobs?

Exec 2: What about “7mate”? “Mate” sounds blokey, right?

Exec 1: ... I still like 7boobs.

When it comes to cool factor, “7mate” is the television equivalent of “iSnack 2.0”.

To be fair, I'm not the target audience for this new channel. Actually, looking at the program schedule – which features repeats of Scrubs, That 70s Show, Family Guy, American Dad, Punk'd and My Name is Earl – it's clear the target audience is “anyone who has managed to avoid television for the last 10 years and might think this crap is new”. (Although I do have to give 7mate points for screening Jersey Shore, the most important sociological experiment involving fake tan and hair gel ever conducted.)

As a 30 year old woman and “grocery buyer” however, I AM the target for Nine's new channel “Gem”. (Yes, apparently it's important that Gem watchers buy groceries, as opposed to growing all their food in a backyard farm operation.)

Apparently “Gem” is supposed to stand for “general entertainment and movies” which, if you cast your mind back, is what all TV channels used to screen back in the good old days. Remember that? When TV used to be generally entertaining? But Gem's not so general – you won't catch many men or kids tuning in for repeats of McLeod's Daughters, Friends and Random Acts of Kindness, unless they've accidentally done so while trying to get the set top box to pick up 7mate.

The channel is obviously aimed squarely at women – but while “Gem” is not as bad a name as “7mate”, it's certainly up there in the uncool stakes. What, couldn't they have come up with a more generically girly name for their new female channel? Were “Lipstick” and “Hair Straightener” already taken?

Sadly though, neither 7mate or Gem will ever make it into my living room, because the Foxtel I've just paid to have installed declines to screen either channel through its system. Which means instead of watching repeats of Friends and Scrubs for free, I'm actually paying $70 a month for them.

On second thoughts, they're not looking so uncool.

This article was first published in the Adelaide Sunday Mail's TV Guide on October 10, 2010.