ABC Family is changing its name.
The Disney-owned cable channel is undergoing a moniker rebranding that ditches “Family” — a word that’s been part of the network’s identity for nearly 30 years across several previous name changes.
Starting in January, ABC Family will be known as Freeform.
The switch is part of an effort to attract more of what the network calls “Becomers,” viewers between the ages of 14 and 34.
The network’s programming style — led by shows like Pretty Little Liars, The Fosters, and Young and Hungry — will essentially remain the the same.
“For us, this doesn’t feel like a radical depature, 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, Millennnials, 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’s executives decided remain focused on telling stories capturing viewers who were “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 polled cable viewers and found ABC Family fans had several positive associations with the channel, but target-demo viewers who did not watch the network were put off by the name. In particular, the word “Family,” which they associated with “family friendly” and “wholesome,” 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 cliched 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.”
In researching a new name, Freeform accomplishes a few different goals the network was striving to hit. The name suggested content that could be viewed on different screens and shared and discussed in multiple ways (ABC Family viewers are big on social media). That viewers no longer just consume content but create it as well was a consideration too. And Freeform, ultimately, was a name that simply generated a positve emotion. “We wanted an emotional response to a name that made people happy,” Ascheim said. “We got an overwhelmingly positive response. Freeform sounds like fun.”
ABC Family was originally launched as CBN Satallite Service in 1977, then rebranded as CBN Family Channel in 1988. For awhile it changed to The Family Channel, then to Fox Family Channel, and then in 2001 became ABC Family Channel. Watch the ABC Freeform announcement video above.