ABC Bails on ‘Family’

Network renames channel 'Freeform' in quest for millennials

ABC Family will soon give up its long-standing niche. Then again, some would argue the cable channel abandoned that mission long ago.

ABC announced this week that its sister cable station, ABC Family, will be reborn as Freeform, starting in January. The new name is part of a rebranding effort aimed at millennials. The channel clung to that “Family” label for nearly 30 years via a variety of incarnations, including CBN Family Channel and the Fox Family Channel. But no more.

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ABC Family President Tom Ascheim told Entertainment Weekly that internal market research found those who don’t watch the channel were upset by terms tied to it such as “family” and “wholesome,” the magazine reports.

“The word ‘Family’ sounds overly loud to their ear, and that makes it a barrier to them coming into our ecosystem,” Ascheim told the magazine.

Executives 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.

Other shows in the ABC Family lineup, like “Pretty Little Liars,” touch on teen sex, same-sex relationships, and pregnancy.

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ABC Family riled social conservatives in recent years with some of its programming choices. “The Fosters,” a drama that followed a lesbian couple and their large brood, struck the demographic as anything but appropriate for all ages.

Over the summer, ABC Family teamed up with TLC to air “Becoming Us,” a reality show about a teen whose father is transitioning to become a woman. Ah, family. Other shows in the ABC Family lineup, like “Pretty Little Liars,” touch on teen sex, same-sex relationships, and pregnancy.

The timing is odd, given the small number of truly family friendly outlets existing on the cable landscape. Even formerly safe syndicated shows like “Family Feud,” which often airs during daytime hours, teem with the kind of sexual innuendo that wasn’t broadcast on TV a decade or so ago.

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