ABC Family Shifts to Focus on Younger Viewers with Sexier Programming

ABC Family Upfront: More Focus on
Image courtesy ABC Family

ABC Family wants to make sure advertisers understand its programming isn’t the sort that might be watched by, well, the unit that is part of its name.

The Walt Disney-owned cable outlet unveiled plans Tuesday to focus on a group of viewers it calls “becomers” who interested in romance, even sex, and on their way to becoming big-spending consumers ready to sign up for credit cards and financial investments. In doing so, executives hope to scrap a long-held notion that its original shows are aimed at parents and younger children watching together.

“That’s not who are. It is not who we are going to be,” said Tom Ascheim, president of ABC Family, in an interview. “We are seeking a shift in the perception, and that’s what we are working very hard on.”

The shift is a nod to the aging of a generation with which the network has previously been linked. Citing research, ABC Family noted nearly 70% of 12-34 year-olds are millennials, but less than half will be in that target range within five years. The emphasis comes as the cable network prepares to call on advertisers as part of TV’s annual “upfront” market, when TV networks try to sell the bulk of their ad inventory for the coming programming cycle.

As part of these efforts, executives at the network vowed to double the amount of original programming it offers over the next four years, and dip into new formats.

ABC Family lifted the veil on a slew of development projects — including “I Am Maker” that is a talent-search series with Disney-owned MCN Maker Studios to find new digital stars. Another is a scripted project from “Pretty Little Liars” showrunner I. Marlene King.

The network will unveil its first procedural, “Stitchers,” slated to debut Tuesday, June 2, at 8 p.m. In the series, a young woman is recruited into a covert government agency to be ‘stitched’ into the minds of the recently deceased, using their memories to investigate murders and crack mysteries.

An unscripted effort, “Becoming Us,” will debut Monday June 8, at 9 p.m. The series tells the story of a teenager learning to live with his dad becoming a woman.

Other new series slated for later this summer include “Monica the Medium,” centered on a junior at Penn State who is also a medium who can talk to dead people; “Job or No Job,” an unscripted series from the producers of “Undercover Boss” that follows one young adult on a journey to find a first job; “Next Step Realty: NYC,” a business based documentary series following the employees of Next Step Realty (pictured, above), a Manhattan real estate firm that helps recent college graduates find apartments in New York City; “Kevin from Work,” is a half-hour workplace comedy about a young man unexpectedly made to work alongside his true love after he believed they’d never see each other again; “Startup U” an unscripted, one hour series that follows a group of entrepreneurial millennials as they embark on a semester at Draper University in Silicon Valley before they pitch their ideas to hungry venture capitalists.

ABC Family announced two programs for early 2016. “Shadowhunters” follows an 18-year-old woman who discovers she is a human-angel hybrid whose mission it is to hunt demons. “Recovery Road,” based on the novel by Blake Nelson, tells the story of a teenage girl grappling with addiction who must live at  a rehabilitation facility.

The network also announced two pilots. “Beyond” is a one-hour drama about  a young man who wakes up from a coma after 12 years and discovers new supernatural abilities. “Gorgeous Morons” is a half-hour comedy about two handsome but simple brothers who gain a brainy new female roommate.

Here’s a rundown of the development slate:

“Hearts and Clubs” (Working title)
There are glamor, thrills and broken hearts around every corner in the alluring city of Las Vegas. Executive producer and music icon, Christina Aguilera, brings all that to life in an addicting new drama series “Hearts and Clubs.” The show celebrates the intersecting lives of young performers as they chase their dreams and fight off their demons in the always-unpredictable Sin City. With an incredible soundtrack, this series will capture the pulse of Las Vegas, where everyone craves acceptance, yet no one ever really fits in. Along with Aguilera, the one-hour drama comes from Austin Winsberg (“Gossip Girl”), Matthew Rutler, Prospect Park and Lionsgate TV.

“Famous In Love” (Working title)
Based on the novel by Rebecca Serle, “Famous In Love” follows ordinary college student Paige as she gets her big break after auditioning for the starring role in a Hollywood blockbuster. She must now navigate her new star-studded life and undeniable chemistry with her two co-leads, while uncovering the truth about what happened to a famous missing popstar. Bella Thorne (“The Duff”) will star as Paige. The pilot is executive produced by I. Marlene King (“Pretty Little Liars”) and Warner Horizon TV.

“Sold Out” (Working title)
The ensemble comedy from ABC Signature Studios, “Sold Out,” is about a young band hitting the road for their first-ever tour. Turns out living the dream can sometimes be a nightmare…but it’s sure funny to watch. The project will be written by Andrea Abbate and is executive produced by Irving Azoff and will be directed by Todd Holland.

“I Am Maker” (Working title)
Emmy® Award winning producers World Of Wonder will team with Maker Studios to share an unprecedented look at what it takes to become a successful You Tube star today.  Inspired by the true roots of Maker Studios, “I Am Maker” is an aspirational docu-series that follows a group of up-and-coming You Tube sensations who will live together and be mentored by the biggest Maker talent – endeavoring to connect their authentic voices with a huge audience.

“You’ve Got To Work It” (Working title)
From Eva Longoria and ITV studios, this successful UK format comes to the US market.  “You’ve Got To Work It” follows eight unemployed girls from diverse backgrounds who get a crash course in the working world – vying for seven job opportunities in seven very different industries.  The girls will also have complete head-to-toe and emotional makeovers with the hope they change their ways, step up to the plate, and land a coveted job to kick start their career.

“We Heart Disney” (Working Title)
ABC Family presents the “We Heart Disney” music spectacular featuring some of today’s biggest pop stars singing classic Disney songs.