ABC Family to Rebrand Network ‘Freeform’ in January

ABC Family will be renamed and rebranded as Freeform in January 2016, network president Tom Ascheim announced Tuesday.

The relaunch, which will coincide with the cabler’s popular “25 Days of Christmas” and winter premieres, marks a continued effort to evolve the young-skewing network past traditional family viewing and toward its target audience of “Becomers,” a network-coined term defined as those in the life stage spanning ages 14 to 34.

The Becomer audience — a concept ABC Family execs introduced at this year’s Upfront presentation — reflects the network’s efforts to keep up with its millennial viewers as they grow up. “The most important question that young people ask themselves as they’re going from high school to their thirties is, ‘Who am I becoming?’ So we call the life stage ‘becoming’ and the people going through it Becomers,” Ascheim explains.

“This is a long time coming. It really is an evolution of something that started 10 to 12 years ago when this network began to focus on what were then millennials. The network built incredible strength and incredible ratings success with young people, especially women,” Ascheim tells Variety. “And then something funny happened on the way of the demographic dance where millennials were no longer synonymous with youth. The oldest ones are turning 40 in a couple of years.”

In addition to adapting to the growing audience, the rebrand is also an effort to reach new viewers who may associate ABC Family with too much, well, family.

“With people who don’t watch the network, which turns out is the majority of this country, there’s a very different perception from our core viewers,” Ascheim says. Recent research conducted by the network had core viewers rewarding the net for many great attributes across the board, he reports, while non-viewers identified the net as “family-friendly” and “wholesome” and gave “pretty lousy marks on everything else.”

“It made us realize that for us to grow and reach new customers, we really had to do something about the perception gap, and not be hindered by our label,” Ascheim explains.

The new name “Freeform” reflects the essence of the audience, says Ascheim: “We think that they are indeed in formation so on some level, so it really feels like it invokes the quality of being a Becomer.”

Ascheim adds that the new name also reflects the network’s goal that users will be active contributors. “Media is oozing onto all sorts of different screens and platforms and it feels kind of free form in the way that people find it,” he says. “Our audience doesn’t see themselves as consumers, but as makers so we wanted a name that felt participatory — they would be part of the process, not just being fed stories.”

That participatory effort will be utilized in today’s announcement, which in addition to heavily featuring messaging across the network’s social platforms, will feature a user-generated campaign where fans are encouraged to submit photos and videos to express what defines their own “Freeform” — or what fuels the passion in their lives. (Watch part of the announcement campaign in the video above.)

Nigel Cox-Hagan, ABC Family’s SVP of marketing, creative and branding, notes that rebranding a network is a “gradual and sustained process,” when asked of any concerns with losing the ABC brand recognition. (The network’s new logo will be revealed at a later date.)

“We’re going to use every level and every platform that we have to bang the drum about our new name,” he says. He also points out that as the most social cable network, the channel already has a captive audience readily awaiting information to be tweeted at them, not to mention highly socially engaged talent.

“From the inception of this evolution, we’ve realized that our stories are Becomer adventures and our core stars are all themselves Becomers,” Cox-Hagan says. “Once we had that insight, we realized they would be great spokespeople to our audience about that change.”

Ascheim emphasizes the network’s programming won’t change, pointing to the commitment to doubling original programming over the next few years, which was also announced at this year’s Upfront. “That commitment remains strong and vivid and happened before we changed the name, and will be part of what I think makes the name come to life,” he says.

He also looks forward to developing more efforts like the recently-announced Nicki Minaj-inspired comedy. “I think it’s part of the evolution of broadening and recruiting new viewers, while keeping current viewers happy,” he says.

Coinciding with the official re-branding in January 2016 are new shows (addiction drama “Recovery Road” and the hotly anticipated saga series “Shadowhunters”), in addition to some of the network’s most popular hits returning (“The Fosters,” “Young and Hungry,” “Baby Daddy” and “Pretty Little Liars”). Cox-Hagan tells Variety a huge campaign promoting Freeform will surround “Shadowhunters'” debut. “It will be very ubiquitous messaging that will be hard to miss,” he says.

“ABC Family has had a lot of success, and it feels really good,” says Ascheim. “I think it’s going to feel even better to unite ratings strength and show strength with brand strength.”

Looking back at ABC Family’s origins, this isn’t the first time the channel has been rebranded. The network went through several names in the years it was owned by evangelist Pat Robertson since its  1977 launch. He sold the network 20 years later to News Corp. and Saban Entertainment when it was known as The Family Channel, which those companies renamed Fox Family Channel. Disney bought the network from them in 1991, and dubbed it ABC Family.

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  1. Connie says:

    I watch freeform every morning, because I love “Last Man Standing” reruns. This morning they were not there, why? I guess I won’t bother anymore.

  2. Gayle Turk says:

    I watch FreeFirm Form channel regularly, especially on Harry Potter wrekends. I would really like to know why when you are having Harry Potter weekend you omit The Order of The Phoenix.

  3. venuspluto67 says:

    Pretty much all the shows on this network appear to be in trouble in terms of ratings, and it only gets worse as time goes on.

  4. Linda Vanderveen says:

    Now that I see the garbage shows being shown on Freeform, I realize why it was changed from the family channel.

  5. Andrew Hampton. says:

    My family was looking forward to seeing Polar Express, but to our dismay , a few minutes into the broadcast we realized the show is an edited version. Not really interested in seeing edited shows as we like seeing the full versions. I hope that not all of your shows are like this. We will wait for other broadcasts that are not edited. Sorry, hope you do not lose too many watchers, but I am sure you will lose some. The Hampton family.

    • Robert Carey says:

      I was watching the movie “Jack Frost” on December 16th at 10:45 and there was an ad for smoking and hookha pipes. I find they offensive that you’re allowing this type of ad during a children’s movie. You should consider who you sell your air time to.

  6. Ginny Roskop says:

    Why don’t you show Order of the Phoenix on Harry Potter weekend?

  7. Naomi Frances says:

    How can this freeform be seen I would love to see Ben and Lauren Higgen

  8. Samantha says:

    I used to watch this station all the time. Once of week now that The Fosters is on. But u all cancelled my other show Twisted. For who knows why. I don’t watch Pretty Little Liers cuz I don’t like it and all the other shows that is on.

  9. colbyalvino says:

    Hi! I’m not a fan of ABC Family’s new name “Freeform,” so I wrote an article about it. Here’s the link if you’re interested!:

    Colby Alvino

  10. Barbara says:

    While Freeform has good movies, most people with children still can’t watch them because the commercials are awful for kids to see and previews of upcoming movies are very frightening to kids and therefore not appropriate. When a movie plays that kids will watch like Willy Wonka it would be nice if all advertisements and movie previews were for kids including those under 9 or 10 years old.

  11. erin says:

    You will be surprised how many people are watching freeform programming shows on On Demand DVR Netflixs and hulu

  12. L Heselton says:

    Really disgusted with the changes to this channel! Isn’t there enough violence in the world already? Do we really want to see more on TV?! Not sure how you view the changes in Family Channel as positive.

  13. Anthony Miano says:

    If u have kids then u should ten min commercial breaks makes me leave the channel

  14. Pam says:

    I’ve been saying for years that they need to drop the family in their name, because their programming is anything but family friendly.
    Glad to see that they decided to comply with my request, even if their new name and reasons for it couldn’t be much more lame.

  15. ONeill says:

    We definitely do not like this new “freeform” channel. What’s with the commercials in Spanish????? This is the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA — English, please!

  16. We liked free form better when it was ABC family. The programming was better. Free form only has movies, not the old shows we knew and loved. Free form is no longer one of our favorite channels.

  17. virginia says:

    Now I see why they renamed it, so they can show the same garbage that other channels are showing. Sex and violence are the only things you see on most channels these days, it was nice to have a Family channel. Too bad, they will lose a lot of viewers.

  18. Robert Eckols says:

    The material is no longer family friendly. We can’t allow our children to watch-this is adult flavored material. We’ve lost a favorite family channel !

  19. Jared says:

    From the promo commercials for new shows I’ve seen it doesn’t look very promising, nor are those the types of shows I’m interested in.
    Seriously shadow hunters, fosters etc looks like it’s aimed towards tween little girls.
    No thanks, I’ll pass on the entire network.

  20. Lisa says:

    Sorry but what a weird mistake. It’s just become the Harry Potter network…..What, was a ‘family network’ just too out there?

  21. silvas says:

    Now I understand the reasoning for changing the station’s name from Family to Freeform. Though the introduction to this web page is to explain the many things this channel wants to present to the new Millennials, it is just a facet to promote and exploit the young minds with the Hollywood trend of homosexuality. This statement excerpt from the above has all the intention of promoting exactly that – THE NEW NAME “FREEDOM” REFLECTS THE ESSENCE OF THE AUDIENCE SAY ASCHEIM. “WE THING THAT THEY ARE INDEED IN FORMATION SO ON SOME LEVEL, SO IT REALLY FEELS LIKE IT INVOKES THE QUALITY OF BEING A BECOMER.” Of course you will continue to show movies that keeps the young audience tuned in and by that your channel in discreetly with advertisements for upcoming show of containing homosexuality. Not all of us viewers believe that homosexuality is something that we have to embrace and it is a shame that if the case young viewers are subject to this without the intervention of their parents that this is not a lifestyle but a lifestyle of choice. I will still watch the many shows that your station will offer but I will be making a sound decision for the future. Do I give in to the trend or make a stand not to turn to the channel station?

  22. Janet says:

    There shouldn’t be “adult” commercials while showing a children’s movie. Leave the obscenities out.

  23. Ann says:

    The commercials are out of control!!! WAY too many!!!

  24. Nina says:

    Solely an attempt to be politically correct. Shame on ABC for removing the word “Family” from their network! Thank God my children are now adults!!!

  25. Nancy says:

    Why would a network want to “dumb-down” by coming up with such a stupid name for a well established station? I agree, I wish society would stop trying to make the young grow up with the crap already on tv? I mean if you want the demographics of the 18-34 then they will be re-branding more often then they think…maybe clean house too to keep up with yesterday!!

  26. ZsaCandice says:

    Can we get twisted back now. I loved that show

  27. Blue Zolar says:

    Family had a niche now lost. We all know its hip to market to millennials but as was pointed out they are aging and becoming parents probably wanting to consume good “family programming with their children. “Freeform” is a buzzword brand with no longevity. It’s a short term brand trying to appeal t now and the “connected generation”. Take a lesson from AMC — (which used to be American Movie Channel) they re-branded not by their network moniker but by their “content brands”, ie, “Breaking Bad”. “Mad Men”. If you are in the real estate business there are three important things: Location, Location, Location. And if you are a Network the three most important things are Content, Content, Content.

  28. Kathlene says:

    Freeform is a terrible new name

  29. Lisa Brockwell says:

    It may be a blessing that you took off the word family because from what I saw, all you are promoting is it’s ok to be gay or have premarital sex. That is NOT family oriented. My family won’t be watching.

    • Chris says:

      You can’t run from being gay, it is ok but I feel sorry for your family if one of your children is gay but don’t feel they can tell you. It’s not a choice people follow on tv, no one would choose it

  30. Patricia says:

    Im so excited what freeform has in store for us :D

  31. Sluggo says:

    Well, the 700 club is still on this channel. But as long as I don’t have to see radical islamic muslims I will watch Freeform.

    • Rey Finkle says:

      If you really think there’s any difference between Pat Robertson and radical Muslims, you’re naive. Fundamentalists are fundamentalists regardless of what “religion” they claim to follow.

  32. Mary Laun says:

    We watched the ABC Family/Freeform Harry Potter movies and were inundated with excessive commercials and the distracting footers with commercials for other programs as well as advertising the name changed. It made me mad and i will no longer watch this channel

  33. angela says:

    I hate the new name

  34. Virginia Smelley says:

    Will you still be showing The 700 Club Interactive and The 700 Club….at 9:30am until 11:00 am Monday thru Friday.

  35. Debrah Thompson-Liccketto says:

    At 61 and with Walt Disney and as an extended cousin, I’m sure he would not approve of the new Freeform. I see it as a takeaway of family values from the way tv was when I was growing up. Over the past several years I’ve seen television viewing becoming more to excite the carnal life with lustful, sexual, of the occult and the demonic that Satan feeds on. The “becomers” as you phrase are so influenced with what they take in visually, that instead of improving their minds they are enticed to fill it with such programming to make bad choices in their time of life that should esteem them to be greater role models for those that come behind them. I can better understand why the Bible says ‘the last shall come first and the first last’. As lives ends now and in the future, it is those that meet their death knowing Jesus Christ as their Savior will go first. Because it is harder to overcome temptation to sin now than in the past as generations before me when there was not the flagrant visualization of the lustfilled and occultism television. Walt Disney had his demonsvto overcome, but he left us with Mickey Mouse. I watch tv for entertainment, but as a Christian I don’t let it influence my life choices. I’m not so sure a great majority the ‘Becomers’ of this generation will have the opportunity to get to know or even here about Jesus Christ and the life he promises if there are not more wholesome shows.

  36. Joani says:

    So basically you sold out to Satan for money. Instead of good wholesome TV that has good values and teaches children to be upstanding members of society and good people you are playing crap that influences young people to “become” involved in more worldly and occult like activities, based on the advertisement s of your new series. Way to go! I’m sure God will understand your need to have more money.

  37. INTJ says:

    Because they thought there wasn’t enough garbage on TV? This seems up there with “New Coke.”

  38. J blair says:

    You go girl….

  39. Jackie says:

    This is really stupid and disappointing. I’m 23 I’ve grown up with ABC Family and my friends as well as family love it just the way it is.

  40. J blair says:

    The change to free form is ridiculous… Is anyone over 30 not worth anything… Disney or ABC have made a lot of money over the years being family oriented…. Shame shame

  41. Debbie Harjo says:

    Where is Switched at Birth? Could u please help me with this. I have Cox in Tulsa, Ok

  42. James says:

    Fucking stupid to rename it . My entire family will refuse to watch anything on that channel now. You people are so stupid.

  43. Evelyn says:

    What channel are you on ?

  44. Thomas Kessinger says:

    There are many better names for a TV network, I’m sure. “FreeForm” doesn’t make any sense.

  45. Scott says:

    Very disgusting

    I was watching Nemo with my 2 year old grandson. And had to change the channel. The previews for there up comming shows were full of sex,murder,and other adult content. You would think if your tuned into a g rated movie. The commercials would be rated g too. Bad form. Freeform

  46. Benny says:

    Stupid name. Does sound like an undergarment.What is so wrong with family anyway?

  47. Jeanne says:

    In my opinion ABC Family has been going downhill for awhile with a lot of it’s non-family friendly programming. I already couldn’t trust the word “family” to mean “family friendly”. And changing their name to “Freeform” just sounds ridiculous…even my 15 year old daughter agrees!! It basically sounds like it’s pushing a “no rules”, “anything goes” mentality to our young and young adults….just what we need in a world already going crazy! I think they are making a huge mistake by continuing with this new mindset, but can’t say I am surprised….it’s happening everywhere. Did they ever consider that maybe viewership would get even better with more family friendly shows instead of less, when you consider some of the crud they are showing? I’m pretty sure it’s the “crud” that has caused viewership to decrease, not their association with “family”. And from the new programming I see coming, I definitely won’t be watching, nor will I want my daughter watching. I’m thankful to see there are still a whole lot of us out here who are opposed to what they are pushing and believe in family values and shows that teach good morals, not the current smut. It’s those good values and morals that help grow decent human beings into “becoming” someone who makes the world a better place!!! Maybe they’ll get the message loud and clear and turn back around…one can only hope!!

  48. Dumb says:

    Just do another season of Twisted

  49. UGH says:

    Absolutely retarded that the famiky channel is joining the libtards! Time to block yet another channel from my TV.

  50. Jane Sayre says:

    I was appalled at the article I read that your network wants so badly to drop The 700 Club. Just the change of name that clearly shows that family programming is not your goal anymore was a sad message that you are following the pack to more violent and sexually explicit fare with the accompanying fowl language. Why can’t anyone in your business consider what this is doing to our young people? I know that the young adult audience seems to be the only demographic considered when selecting programs for the vast majority of television, movie, and music fare, but there are a lot more of us out here that not only watch, but spend money on advertised products. Must we be relegated to only a few channels that don’t offend the American citizens who believe that there are interesting viewing experiences that are decent and teach what are the outcomes of doing things the right and wrong ways? Please don’t lose touch with the principles that this country was founded on and the world was created for.

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