ABC Family Detaching From ‘Hallowed’ Brand Associations with Freeform Name Change

ABC Family Detaching From 'Hallowed' Brand
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ABC Family president Tom Ascheim came to the Television Critics Association winter press tour on Saturday prepared to defend the decision to change the cabler’s name to Freeform as of Jan. 12.

Ascheim said the moniker makeover was the result of months of research and focus group studies. They went through thousands of options before settling on Freeform, a process he called “tireless and tiresome.” The goal is to evoke a sense of freedom, spontaneity and unrestrained attitudes that reflect the coming-of-age experiences of the cabler’s target demo of so-called “becomers” — which Ascheim described as the age range “between your first kiss and your first kid.”

Freeform, Ascheim argued, also reflects the “moment in our media heritage we’re all experiencing where content is coming in every shape, size and format on every screen. (Freeform) seems to promise to deliver on that expectation that our young audience is having.”

Ascheim was pressed on why a prominent TV network would lose its association with Disney and ABC. Ascheim said the rationale was that Freeform sounded more like a fresh, hip destination for younger demos.

“Detaching ourselves from hallowed brands felt like a way to make sure that newness and freshness were part of the qualities that went with Freeform,” Ascheim said. “And research has borne that out.”

Ascheim was quick to note that behind the scenes, Freeform retains all the benefits of that come with being part of the mighty Mouse House. “Under the hood, we’re going to have even more important relationships with our (colleagues) at ABC” now that it has lost the “Family” descriptors from its name.

The name change, he added, was especially crucial for drawing young viewers who may be tuning into Freeform for the first time in the coming years.

The name tested well in all of the company’s research, although Ascheim acknowledged that the participants were not asked about whether Freeform was a good fit as a new name for the existing ABC Family. “We didn’t want to prejudice them by asking whether it’s a good name for ABC Family,” he said.

The relaunch of Freeform also coincides with the reintroduction of the cabler’s authenticated broadband app, now dubbed Watch Freeform. Ascheim said the app has been revamped to emphasize “mobile first” as the preferred viewing option for so many of its younger viewers.

“It begins a new area for us where digital will be of equal importance to what we do in the linear world because that’s where our audience lives,” he said.

But the app remains largely tethered to authentication, meaning that users have to have a traditional MVPD subscription to access the content. Ascheim said that with the relaunch there will be more content “in front of the wall than there’s ever been, but you will inevitably have to authenticate it at some point in the process because that’s part of how our business works.”

Freeform has a host of stunts planned to herald the Jan. 12 transformation. The cabler will offer a marathon of its signature drama “Pretty Little Liars,” leading up to the show’s season 6B premiere, followed by the launch of Freeform’s first foray into fantasy drama, “Shadowhunters.”

On the app Freeform will mount a “virtual tailgate” party and offer streaming via Periscope and other platforms of musical performances and celebrity shout-outs marking the name change. Freeform is also offering fans the chance to submit to an analysis of their social media profile that will be converted into “digital art” and in some cases “wearable art,” Ascheim said.

Skeptical reporters immediately pounced on the prospect of Disney mining valuable consumer data from the effort, which Ascheim was quick to douse. “This one is just a present for the audience,” he said. “We are not doing this particularly in a mercenary fashion.’

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  1. erin says:

    i am trying to get in contact with Tom ascheim do you know what his email address is

  2. 5654funny says:

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

    Splitsider and family guy raiting guy have a calculating machine device where they count and to review abc family freeform programming shows raitings according to them they will keep saying there is over 50,00000000000000 60,0000000000 70,00000000000 people watching abc family programming shows on On Demand DVR Netflixs and hulu

  3. Kathleen says:

    Read the previous article – there is a link in this article. The programming is now “appropriate” for ages 14 to 34?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! What in all heaven’s name is appropriate for a 14 yr old and a 34 yr old??? What does an unrelated 34 yo have in common with a 14 yo?? Not a thing unless the 34 yo is a pedophile.

    This progrmming change infuriates me. ABC is a Disney company. If this is the direction Disney is going in, I hope they tank in a big way. Selling my Disney stock tomorrow.

  4. Kathleen says:

    ABC Family was a “tween” station. Programming under Freeform is just more cable garbage. Blocked from our family’s channel lineup. I hope other families do the same.

  5. David says:

    I don’t let my family watch it anymore. It’s sad that weak minded people have to conform to the popular rather than stand by the own belief. This is not a channel that my family will watch. And it’s not a channel that a mature adult would watch. It appears to be a channel that someone has used to publicize their own agenda.

    • Steve says:

      How do you plan to stop your children from viewing? What child actually takes a parent’s advice on such matters? Did you? I didn’t and, in fact, found any banned TV show to be even more enjoyable after my mother deemed it taboo.
      Just some food for thought…

    • Kathleen says:

      We won’t watch it either. The dramatic change in programming when watching the previews of upcoming shows — absolute garbage. Just disgusting. Block it from your channel lineup – easy to do. Cable providers monitor the channels that are blocked by their subscribers. And that will hit FreeForm in the wallet when Freeform tries to renew with cable companies.

  6. Pam Tauber says:

    I felt so strongly about this awful name change it prompted me to open a twitter account. I managed to live without one just fine before this. That should tell you something. I watch a great many shows on your station. I had just finally gotten used to the name ABC Family, which was a tough swallow. But hearing Freeform pitched over and over and over again on the night that Pretty Little Liars premiered? I thought I’d puke. It is just so stupid. Even the actors you had promoting it seemed to have a hard time spitting it out. Please change it before it’s too late. Everyone in your audience is not eleven. No disrepect meant to eleven year olds. I don’t think they would like it either. Thank you.

  7. Pam Tauber says:

    The shows on the station are primarily about growing up? Fine. I submit my marketing genius to them for free this time… before it’s too late, change the station name to GU… Growing Up… there have been station name changes before very quickly after new ones were launched, it’s not such a big deal… without a doubt, this new name is a bomb. Whatever their research told them, they were overtired, and gave up too soon. They were all too old and trying to think like 13 year olds. Free… yes yes yes… I get it, but not Freeform… and it’s not the 70’s so it can’t be Freedom… so stop straining your brains there at the Executive Suite and give it up for what it is … Growing Up.

  8. Rob says:

    I absolutely understand wanting to remove the word “family” from the network name. With each passing year, it was an increasingly misleading name. The programming is clearly geared towards teens and young adults. It is not the family friendly, all ages appropriate content that the name would suggest. And that’s okay. In the last six years or so, I have enjoyed several of ABC Family’s shows, but I would not let my young niece and nephew watch them. The shows aren’t meant for them.

    I believe that the network did research and went through many name choices. Choosing a name is a difficult thing. But “Freeform” is a terrible choice! I admit I can’t think of an alternative, but “freeform” doesn’t sound like a T.V. network at all. Oh, well. The choice is made. It’s not like it’s going to change now.

    Still. Freeform? Really? Dumb!

  9. Changing the name is a very stupid thing to do and you need to leave it alone. IF IT IS NOT BROKEN DON’T F WITH IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Kathleen says:

      They changed the name because they are changing the programming. Glad for the heads’ up so I could block this channel before my children were exposed to the garbage they are planning to broadcast.

  10. Lisa says:

    Ridiculous name! Freeform sounds like a swimming move, not a tv channel. Seems like everyone wants to fix things when they’re not broke and end up messing things up. Try again on the name or leave it alone.

  11. jahwoo says:

    What silly rationale but that’s tv execs for you.

    I don’t think anyone is going to tune in based on the name and/or if they do they won’t stay long once realizing the programming is anything but freeform😂😂😂

  12. Brad says:

    It is a terrible idea, and a terrible name too, Wow, bad leadership.

  13. Bill says:

    So does this mean they will be abandoning their annual Christmas block? That’s not very “hip” for their “young demos.”

    I’ll never get the continued focus on groups with minimal money to spend.

  14. A big part of this story is missing, how did they get permission to drop the word Family from their name. As i have always understand to was a requirement of the sale decades ago that they always keep the word family as well as keep airing The 700 Club. I would be interested to know how they got around that. I know a few years back when ABC purchased the channel from FOX they wanted to rename it XYZ but they were blocked because of that requirement.

    • giantslor says:

      However, according to USA Today, “The religious program 700 Club, airing weeknights at 11 p.m. ET/PT, will also continue indefinitely (and incongruously), thanks to an agreement made when Disney bought the chnanel.” So maybe it’s this agreement that got conflated with the idea that they had to keep “family” in their name.

    • giantslor says:

      Variety addressed this in an earlier story: According to the network head, the “Family” name requirement is nothing but an urban legend.

  15. Michael Anthony says:

    Freeform tested “well”??? Where were these focus groups held? Certainly in no areas of average intelligence. The name means nothing. Except perhaps a cult. Its ridiculous, even more so when trying to defend it.

    • jahwoo says:

      Freeform means something when in reference to music and thus at least in theory to television. Improv for example is Freeform itinit? However they’re not changing to an all improv schedule so….dumb.

      • Steve says:

        I think that the goal was an effort not to sound like a TV network. Everyone is overly focused on the dropping off the word FAMILY while the bigger story is its how the Mousehouse ran from both the ABC and Disney brands. This is clearly about the migrat from TV to Web; an effort to appear indie; an effort to gain older (18-34 year old) viewers; a message that one can expect anything (The Fosters or the 700 Club) from this channel or in midern web speak aggregator of content.
        I don’t love Freeform but do think both ABC and Family do sound unhip in a corporate/red state kind of way when trying to reach adult viewers.
        How many adults wear purity rings and restrict themselves to Family programming?

    • giantslor says:

      A “cult”? What the hell are you smoking?

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