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Upfronts: ABC Family Turns Up the Volume to Change Direction

ABC Family formally raised the curtain on its brand image overhaul Tuesday with a noisy upfront presentation in Manhattan that showed the cabler’s determination to move beyond the traditional definition of “family” programming.

ABC Family execs are ambitiously attempting to coin a new demographic term: “Becomers,” or what they defined as youths and young adults in the 12-34 age range.

ABC Family president Tom Ascheim told the crowd of buyers gathered at the Stage 37 event space that the new target is shows that reflect people dealing with the “universal life stage” of entering adulthood. Per ABC Family’s pitch to buyers, “becomers” can be loosely defined as the time span between “the first kiss and the first kid.”

ABC Family had been focused on the millennial generation, or those born after 1975. But the older edge of that subset is now pushing 40, which drove ABC Family to push the reset button. “They’re geezers,” Ascheim joked.

It’s no secret ABC Family has chafed at times with the “family” focus of its moniker. The raft of new shows unveiled by programming exec VP Karey Burke demonstrate that the cabler is no longer bound by those constraints. The broad slate, the largest in ABC Family’s history, runs the gamut of workplace comedies to paranormal dramas to docu-reality series about a college student who happens to be a medium and a teenager dealing with his father’s transgender transition to womanhood.

Ascheim has been at the helm of ABC Family a little over a year. Burke, a seasoned producer and former NBC exec, joined the channel as exec VP of programming and development about six months ago. “Redefining” was a common theme that the two mentioned more than once during the hourlong presentation that included a nod to a souped-up Watch ABC Family app designed to appeal to the social media-addicted target audience.

ABC Family had plenty of talent on hand for the presentation, including the comely cast of “Pretty Little Liars.” After the formal presentation, chairs and tables were cleared away to allow for dancing. Clothing racks were brought out for “cos play” with the talent, and sure enough plenty of buyers went for it, funny hats and feather boas and all.

To demonstrate the channel’s youthful bona fides, ABC Family had a DJ on hand to spin live tunes. But after the presentation, when the throbbing beats drowned out any possibility of conversation, Ascheim made an executive decision. A few moments later, the volume on the subwoofer came down a few notches.

(Pictured: ABC Family’s Karey Burke)

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