ABC Family is changing its name due to a slump in viewers and the desire to reach out to other potential groups. The channel, which is owned by Disney like ABC, is going to completely ditch the word "Family" from its resume - with the hopes that teens and emerging adults will start to watch their scripted shows. The station has changed its name before, but in the last 30 years one thing has always remained the same: "Family."
However, starting in January 2016, ABC Family will no longer exist and "Freeform" will be the new name. The switch will target what the network calls "the Becomers" or viewers between 14 and 34. The programming will remain the same, with shows like Pretty Little Liars, The Fosters, and Young and Hungry. It was announced this week that the show Chasing Life would not be renewed.
“For us, this doesn’t feel like a radical departure, this is an evolution,” ABC Family president Tom Ascheim explained to EW. “For the last 10-to-12 years, we’ve been targeting young people, Millennials, and then something happened. Millennials started getting older. The oldest ones are nearly 40. So do we follow Millennials or stay with the ‘life stage’ that got us here?”
The network said to EW that they would remain focused on those scripted stories, focusing in on characters who are “navigating the wonderful, fun, exciting, and scary time in life when you experience the most firsts – first car, first apartment, first job, first love, first heartbreak – all the firsts that exists between who they are and who they want to become.”
The team said that they ran testing to see how people felt about ABC Family, and found that there were positive associations with the name. However, those in the target-demos did not watch the network because they were put off by the name, Ascheim said.
“That’s the nub of why we’re changing our name,” Ascheim said. “Like any growing business, we want to keep our core customers satisfied, but also add new ones – and they had a clichéd sense of who we are. The word ‘Family’ sounds overly loud to their ears and that makes it a barrier to them coming into our ecosystem.”
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The name change is in hopes that the network will be able to have a hit. It also hopes that they can encourage more participation on different screens - and on social media, which is becoming increasingly important. “We wanted an emotional response to a name that made people happy,” Ascheim said. “We got an overwhelmingly positive response. Freeform sounds like fun.”