If you're a fan of any show that runs during the ABC Family blocks, you know already that ABC will be changing the name of that segment of programming to Freeform. The change, set to take effect on Tuesday, January 12, is a bold move in that the parent company predicted confusion among viewers, but what, if anything, does it mean for television viewers? Will it change our television viewing experiences or affect our favorite shows?
Continue reading for answers to these and other questions, regarding the emergence of Freeform.
Why is ABC Family becoming Freeform?
Under most circumstances, a name change for a big company is a sign that there are problems too large to be cured by anything less than a complete overhaul. This isn't the case with the switch to Freeform, said ABC President Tom Ascheim, when he addressed the Television Critics Association 2016 Winter TV Tour in Los Angeles. The network president says that, despite assumptions to the contrary, ABC isn't suffering from the significant drops in either ratings or profits that might require marketing ploys (such as a name change) to attract new audiences.
"So, why mess with a good thing?"Ascheim said. "We, like any business, need to grow. And growth only comes from two places: You make your core customers happy, and you get new customers."
The president of ABC went on to explain that, while the network has successfully attracted audiences looking for wholesome, family-oriented programing, that's not representative of all that the network airs. ABC is interested in attracting those that might be put off by the ABC Family connotations, people looking for programs that are more adult oriented.
Freeform hopes to attract Becomers
What are Becomers, you ask? Ascheim has a well-thought-out answer for you.
"It's a life stage," Ascheim said. "It's that place between childhood and adulthood. Proverbially we say between your first kiss and your first kid. Kind of starts in high school, goes till, I don't know, when you're 20 or something, maybe 30."
Basically, it's a catch-all term that ABC uses to encompass a larger group than the traditional 18-24 year olds and 25-34 age groups. ABC hopes to use the Freeform name to attract younger audiences, based on the idea that the name will speak to younger generations in search of original and unique content from multiple sources. It's ABC's hope that the Freeform name will become synonymous with words like creativity and spontaneity, allowing the network to become even more essential to an interactive television experience.
The concept or feeling evoked when discovering something new is really what Freeform is all about and ABC Family was really quite limiting in that respect. Ascheim hopes Freeform, as a brand, will branch out to anything from streaming services to clothing lines.
As for programming, favorite shows normally aired under the ABC Family banner will still be found in their normal time slots. For example, a marathon of Pretty Little Liars episodes will usher in the introduction of Freeform. Additionally, the newly renamed network will be working on developing a comedy based upon Nicki Minaj's life.
In spite of Ascheim's assurances, the name change does seem like a desperate marketing ploy to attract a larger share of audiences. It's no secret that many networks are feeling the crunch, now that traditional television viewing has been upstaged by internet streaming services. There are now choices, and many of those choices, unlike network television, don't force viewers to sit through 15 minutes of advertising. Instead, ads are more subtle and typically come before or after the program, while ads that are shown in mid stream are short and limited to one or two at a time. Likewise, streaming services provide cheaper subscription plans than either cable or satellite packages. In the end, ABC Family becoming Freeform may do little to calm the changing tides.
[Featured image by Freeform]