ABC Family seeks wider audience

Tracy Naschek, Contributing Writers

This Jan., ABC Family is changing its fifteen-year-old network name to “Freeform.”

Through extensive research, the ABC Family team and President of the channel Tom Ascheim have found that people who do not watch ABC Family incorrectly assume that its shows are only appropriate for families, especially those with young children.

However, current viewers know that ABC Family shows cater to a wide audience. Programs such as 25 Days of Christmas, which plays classic movies like Elf and Jack Frost, are appropriate for the whole family and can spread cheer throughout an entire household.  Shows such as Pretty Little Liars and Baby Daddy, which deal with subjects such as murder and unplanned pregnancies, are far too mature to be deemed “family friendly” but still appear on the channel.  To clear up this misconception, Ascheim decided that it was time for a new name for the same content.

Freeform will not be restricted to the same shows that ABC Family currently offers its viewers.  The debut of Shadowhunters, a drama following the adventures of a girl who discovers she is half-angel, half-human, is set to coincide with the debut of Freeform. Ascheim plans to promote the show as the face of the new network.

The main character of the new show is a “becomer,” a term Aschleim coined to describe the characters of Freeform shows as well as the audience he hopes to attract.  Ages 14-34, becomers are people who are experiencing many things for the first time throughout high school, college, jobs, and the rest of their lives.

Because the age group encompasses a stage of life rather than a generation, Ascheim’s new target audience will not outgrow the network, a phenomenon from which ABC Family is currently suffering.  However, Freeform plans on retaining ABC Family’s family demographic with programs such as 25 Days of Summer.

Still one question remains, why Freeform?  Ascheim and ABC Family’s marketing team have an answer.  The characters and their audience are in the process of shaping their identities; essentially, they are in formation.  Thus, the name Freeform was born.  The name reflects the programs and their audience, making it an obvious choice out of over three thousand options the ABC Family team proposed.

This new change may shake up many viewers’ opinions of the network.  Ascheim, however, is prepared for that, and understands that this must be a gradual renaming.  However, if those shaken up were to understand the direction Freeform is taking ABC Family’s programs into, their discomfort would likely be replaced with excitement.