Jess Guida ’19 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
ABC Family released major news today that they will be rebranding come January 2016, and changing their name to Freeform. Leaving the “family” behind, the television network is looking to target a specific demographic of younger viewers, ages 14-34, who have been labeled as the “Becomers.”
The network is no stranger to name changes, previously known as The Family Network and Fox Family, but this will be the first time in over twenty-five years that the word “family” has been left out of their name. Although the change seemed to come out of nowhere, this decision was not made on a whim. ABC Family reportedly went through over 3,000 names before ultimately deciding on ‘Freeform.’
This stems from what non-viewers perceive the network to be: family oriented. However, it has been clear for the past few years that the Disney-owned network has been branching away from their roots. Some of their most popular programs, including Pretty Little Liars and The Fosters, are not meant for the whole family to sit down and watch together. They have also broken into social media in recent years by live-tweeting during Pretty Little Liars. So, it’s no surprise that ABC Family would want to target the young viewers that make up their core audience and draw in more of the “Becomers.”
As for their lineup, the network also released a statement assuring viewers that they will be continuing with ABC Family’s regular programming, including the network’s original show The 700 Club, as they transition to Freeform. Also sticking around will be the “25 Days of Christmas”, in an attempt “to be inclusive; the idea is to center on young people, but include families as ‘Becomers’ have families,” said ABC Family President, Tom Ascheim. The network will also continue to be owned by The Walt Disney Company, despite dropping “ABC” from its title.
For the most part, fans seem surprised by the announcement, but the ultimate opposition seems to be centered on the name itself. The name was supposedly chosen by a focus group of about 1,200 people, but the network did not want their rebranding to be obvious. Instead, the network is promoting Freeform as being “free to take whatever shape feels right” and “free to push beyond the expected.” One thing is for sure, they definitely accomplished the unexpected, and it will be interesting to see how this change affects their viewership as they promote the rebranding over the next few months.
Watch ABC Family’s official announcement here: