ABC Family changing name to Freeform to shake 'wholesome' image

By Ben Munson

After originally announcing its imminent name change in October, ABC Family is now less than one week away from becoming Freeform, a shift execs hope will better reflect the current slate of programming on the channel.

It's a risky move considering the success the channel has been having with its current moniker. Nielsen's Dec. 13 ratings for ad-supported cable channels put ABC Family at No. 2, just behind ESPN in terms of total viewers.

The ABC Family name means "family-friendly" and "wholesome" to non-viewers, ABC Family President Tom Ascheim told Adweek. "We needed to make it feel like there's less cognitive dissonance between what you're seeing and what we're called," he said.

The Disney-owned channel's content has been skewing more toward a millennial audience for years now. ABC Family has found success with dramas including Switched at Birth, The Fosters and Pretty Little Liars, which will premier in its new season on Jan. 12, the same day the name change kicks in.

Since the content transition has been a work in progress since about 2008 when The Secret Life of the American Teenager debuted, advertisers are already familiar with the channel's change in direction. Darcy Bowe, media director at Starcom, told Adweek that the name change shouldn't have an impact as long as ABC Family maintains its strategy of creating original content that attracts a certain audience.

The new name will also help reflect the channel's multiscreen strategy. "Media is oozing onto all sorts of different screens and platforms and it feels kind of free form in the way that people find it," Ascheim told Variety in October.

For more:
- see this Adweek article
- see this Variety article

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