Thursday, January 9, 2014
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — Television's Independent Film Channel is no more.
Viewers of "Portlandia" or other quirky comedies had probably figured that out by now. But the network's general manager, Jennifer Caserta, said Thursday that the corporate paperwork has been signed to change the network's name to IFC.
It's another example of how networks evolve over time with their names and images sometimes catching up to them, like when The Learning Channel became TLC as its programming changed dramatically. The initials IFC now officially stand for nothing.
"Fewer and fewer people refer to us as the Independent Film Channel," Caserta said. "But legacy takes a while to undo itself."
The changeover began in 2010 when IFC began airing its first original comedy, "The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret."
The network now produces six original comedies. The most recent, a spoof of prime-time soaps titled "The Spoils of Babylon," stars Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig and Tobey Maguire with several other famous names making cameos, began this week. Reruns of "Arrested Development" were also a key part of the transition.
Audience research determined that off-kilter comedy was particularly attractive to IFC viewers, people with that independent sensibility. While there are plenty of places to find broad-based comedy on TV, IFC managers figured they could fill a niche with shows that are "slightly off," as IFC says in its tagline.
IFC, owned by AMC Networks Inc., has also filled time with movies that could hardly be described as independent; over the holiday season it ran installments of the National Lampoon "Vacation" comedies.
Financially, there's a far greater upside for a network in creating its own original programming than in relying on movies that were originally produced for other venues.
"You have to stand for something as a network, and you stand for something through original programming," Caserta said.
On the docket for IFC later this year is a new series, "Garfunkel & Oates," starring the comic duo Riki Lindhome and Kate Micucci, and a second season of "Maron," about the comic Marc Maron.
Even though IFC's transition has been a long time coming, signing the documents killing off the name Independent Film Channel was still a significant moment, Caserta said.
"It was like getting a marriage license," she said. "You could be living with someone for 10 years, but when you sign the papers, it makes things different."