The Disney-owned network that is ABC Family will be officially changing its name to Freeform as of January 2016. Home to the drama filled series like Pretty Little Girls, The Fosters, and Switched at Birth, the network is about to start trying to target a different demographic group of viewers, and the term “Family” is just a bit too wholesome for the journey it will be embarking on.
Promotions for the name change to Freeform have already begun, but the new logo is being kept under wraps for a few more months. The channel came into being in 1977 by Pat Robertson as CBN Family Channel, and though it went through several name changes and owners, it always kept the word “family,” evolving through The Family Channel, Fox Family, and then to the current ABC Family. The year 2016 will be the first time in 27 years that “family” will be absent from the name.
The company has chosen the new, less than traditional, name because of worries that the current name is a turnoff to the 14 to 34-year-old viewers that are the its target audience. Deadline reports that according to Tom Ascheim, ABC Family’s President, research conducted shows that the channel’s core viewers understand the younger, social-media active brand, but those who do not actually tune in to the channel are the ones associating it with wholesome and family-friendly programming.
“This is an evolution for our company that has been going on for a long time… We wanted to harmonize our content and our. By achieving that harmony, we would be much better positioned to keep our core viewers and add new viewers.”
Several different names were tested before the company settled on Freeform, over 3,000 to be a bit more specific. It is believed that “Freeform” best captures the spirit of the young people that the network has sought and is seeking as viewers; as they navigate the world and have a myriad of first experiences like first loves or their first jobs. The program line-up and the classics that viewers have come to expect from ABC Family will remain the same despite the name change. Ascheim spoke to Entertainment Weekly and mentioned that the fun and excitement will remain.
“For us, this doesn’t feel like a radical departure, this is an evolution. For the last 10-to-12 years, we’ve been targeting young people, millennials, and then something happened. Millennials started getting older. The oldest ones are nearly 40. So do we follow millennials or stay with the ‘life stage’ that got us here?”
The Press release highlighted that ABC Family executives are aware that, as a business, it needs to grow. In addition to keeping the viewers it already has, it needs to obtain new ones. Most of the danger in the switch resides in the possibility that established viewers could miss the name change, but the network hopes that its plan to heavily promote the change to Freeform will take care of that worry. In fact the most popular series, like Pretty Little Liars will see a bombardment of advertisements announcing the change, as will the annual “25 days of Christmas” line up.
The name Freeform was chosen because it most suggested that the content provided could be shared, viewed, and discussed over multiple mediums since social media does play such an active part in the channels series. The name change comes at a time when ABC Family was about to undertake a massive expansion in the programs they provide as well. Announcements were made earlier this year that plans were in motion to double the amount of original programming offered over the next four years.
Ultimately, Freeform also seemed to generate a positive feeling in viewers and simply sounds like fun.
[Photo Courtesy of ABC Family twitter feed]