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What’s in a name?

10 April 2014

What’s in a name? Well… a lot, apparently.

People need to know what to call you. You need to know what to call yourself. Otherwise things get confusing.

You can’t assume anyone will find your content on TV. A show needs a title to draw viewers in when they see it in the channel listings, or catch an eye in a cluttered newsfeed.

So we tried to come up with a name for our show.

How hard is it to come up with something snappy and clever, a play on words from both the sports and media worlds, which our entire group liked and did well in our mass surveys? Very hard.

Even coming up with a list of potential options was tough, and this is coming from a guy who names 12 different fantasy teams a year.

Karen and I stood at a whiteboard during our brainstorming session and wrote down suggestions. We started by recording adjectives describing our show, which is why in the photo you’ll see clichés like fresh and informative.

There are no wrong answers during a brainstorming session, which is why you’ll see atrocities like Pardon the Horn. That was a joke. Except it was on one those you sort of had to be there for, which is why it wouldn’t succeed as a show name. Same with F:60 (Tagline: Just like E:60 but stories deserving an F!). Another bad joke. Throwing out the bad ideas was the easiest part of the exercise.

We also wanted our name to be original. Names can apparently rip each other off (Frontline, Nightline, Dateline) but can’t be exact duplicates.

We thought of a few we were moderately excited about, like Zone Coverage (as in media coverage — get it?) only to find out it was already the name of a podcast hosted on Blog Talk Radio. We also rejected a few names that sounded like rip offs of Outside the Lines.

A key reason the process was difficult is because we still don’t know precisely what the show will be like. We’re still determining the types of stories we’ll cover and the overall tone. Full Court Press sounded like a clever name for a show created by the sports press, but it’s too much of a basketball term for a general sports show. We don’t want to turn off viewers who don’t follow basketball.

In the end, we may invent a phrase without a witty wordplay. Nobody knew what E:60 meant before the show launched. Same with 30 for 30. The phrase pardon the interruption had nothing to do with sports before it became the title of a sports show.

Would those titles have tested well in a focus group? Maybe. But a show’s brand is built and maintained long after the launch, and some of the best names are just fresh and simple, and gain currency over time.

So I’m sure we’ll land on something. But it didn’t happen today.