Flashback Friday: Freeing ABC from its Family
Anyone who has been a loyal follower of shows like Pretty Little Liars or The Fosters may soon come to a shocking realization that, starting January 2016 the ABC Family Network will cease to exist in name. In an effort to attract a younger audience, ABC Family is rebranding itself as Freeform.
ABC Family has built itself a cult following throughout the years with shows like Boys Meets World and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. But a gradual decline in viewer ratings recently has forced the network to diversify itself portfolio when facing online streaming platforms like Netflix and Hulu.
Freeform is ABC’s effort to connect with a younger consumer audience or what it calls as, “the becomer generation.” The network is shifting focus to growing millennials or people within the 14-34 years of age.
ABC Family president, Tom Ascheim enthusiastically said in a statement that, “Freeform will evoke the spirit and adventure of our audience, it will deliver new, exciting original content as well as all the favorite shows our viewers already love on ABC Family.”
This is the first major departure from the network’s “family” branding in over three decades. The network has a history of prior name changes. In 2001, the network adopting the ABC Family signature as part of the Disney–ABC Television Group. It operated as Fox Family Channel from 1998 to 2001 and as The Family Channel from 1990 to 1998.
One of the most prominent reasons for the name change was to clarify the misconception about the network and its shows. In the past, ABC Networks has been branded as a “family” channel with content that was wholesome and mostly geared towards families. The network felt that viewers were not connecting with what the channel offered.
As the Millennial generation matures this change was much needed. Like any growing business, the network has to satisfy its existing customer base but also attract a new audience. The network wanted to remove the clichéd tag attached to its name. This shift in focus also comes as a result of having achieved a network first by winning the calendar year in its target young-female demo. Nielsen estimates that the Disney-owned network averaged 250,000 women 18-34 during any average minute of primetime for 2014.