ABC Family Getting a Makeover

ABC Family, a popular Disney-owned television network, announced that beginning in January 2016, it will changE its name to Freeform. ABC Family president Tom Ascheim said the company is rebranding to suit its shifting target audience. The network is switching its focus from an aging Millennial audience to a younger one, which the company has dubbed the “becomers.” “Becomers” include people in high school, college and the decade following college. The name comes from the question “Who am I becoming,” which Ascheim says is the question this audience is trying to answer.

Photo Credit: ABC Family

Photo Credit: ABC Family

The rebrand has been in the works for some time; however, it comes most recently after the network saw a decline in viewership. According to a Wall Street Journal article, during its 2014-15 TV season, ABC Family saw a six percent drop in its 18- to 34-year-old target audience.

In a video released by the company, ABC Family explains that the name Freeform symbolizes its audiences ability to freely express themselves and get from “point a to point b in a line that’s nowhere near straight.” Even though the network name is changing, the show content will stay the same.

Photo Credit: ABC Family

Photo Credit: ABC Family

While most experts agree that the rebranding move was necessary, opinions are split on the new name. One Forbes writer likens the name to a stiff dad making an effort to be cool and claims that it will not sit well with “becomers.”

What do you think of the rebranding? Was it necessary? What do you think of the name Freeform? Do you think it will be resonate with the “becomer” audience?

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15 Responses to ABC Family Getting a Makeover

  1. Elissa Harrison says:

    I personally do not like the choice of the name “Freeform.” What does that word exactly mean? Why did they select that word? I personally don’t understand how that represents their new audience they are trying to reach. When the article first started talking about who they wanted to target more my thoughts were there already reaching this generation due to their recent shows they have launched over the years regardless of the brand name. Yes I think the name ABC family name doesn’t fit that market I also find it weird of their new word choice. How does freeform better fit it? Dr. Matera talked about how completely abandoning isn’t always best. That is why we decided to incorporate our client’s old brand into a new and improved brand. I feel ABC is just abandoning its old brand and may cause old consumers to feel abandoned as well.

  2. Aubrey Badger says:

    I have to completely agree with the Forbes writer who compared ABC Family’s rebranding efforts to a dad trying to be cool. I think it’s a very big mistake on ABC’s part that they specifically said that the show content will stay the same. Have they considered that maybe that is the reason why they have declining viewership? Because their content is declining? I know more than a handful of people who have given up on Pretty Little Liars because of the never-ending plot twists and the dragging out of the entire series. I would advise ABC to focus on content first, and being “cool” later.

  3. Kimberly Linn says:

    I do think ABC Family was in need of a re-branding, and I do thing some of the elements taking place in this shift now are a good first steps. Some of the recent shows ABC Family has chosen to take on is a huge and important step. For example, the newer series The Fosters has hit the jackpot for controversial issues — two interracial lesbians raising foster children who bash the whole foster care system. This series as struck a chord with the millennial population by consistently setting season viewer highs.

    Personally, I am not a fan of these new promo commercial spotlighting their shows. They do not tell the viewer anything about the show.

  4. Juliet Moo says:

    Rebranding is definitely something necessary to keep up with this ever-changing global marketplace. I’m just not too sure if ABC Family is doing it right. For instance, the name change to ‘Freeform’ is a risky move – too risky in fact. With little to no connection with its already established name, loyal audiences might find it hard to just adapt to a new name; in addition, some audiences might even feel abandoned. I understand that ABC Family is attempting to appeal to a whole new generation, but the name ‘Freeform’ and the term ‘Becomer’ is rather tasteless. It also makes the company seem lazy and desperate. In my opinion, having a clean slate is never the best idea. ABC Family needs to have a more gradual transition, which generates new, younger audiences while leaving their aging Millennial with good memories.

  5. Matthew Covert says:

    I think abc family is a very good brand. It is a little strange that they would try to change anything as it seems to be working for them. I think that they are attempting to bring new viewers in but changing the name isn’t the way to do that. With the picture above they are clearly targeting millennials but millennials won’t vibe well with the new name because it has nothing to offer. Freeform? No structure anything goes? I don’t understand the name and I doubt my peers would either.
    In addition the photo used for the promo has three different fonts in it, using three different colors. It is a bad promo image and a weird move by ABC.

  6. Brittany DIerken says:

    Ever since I was a child, I watched ABC Family and enjoyed the variety of programming. The channel is a niche for families and airs a variety of programming for tweens to early adults. I think the rebranding is necessary, but not in the direction they are taking. The name “Freeform” makes no sense and makes the station look like they are lost as well. “Becomers” do not like the attention or being categorized. ABC Family is doing just that and will form a disconnect between the audience they are trying to attract. There is a balance where they need to brand themselves to attract that audience, without singling them out or making it too obvious.

    ABC Family should add newness to their logo/branding and take a look at their show list in narrowing down to a specific demographic. They have shows pertaining to kids entering kindergarten (Disney movies) and shows appealing to adults in their early 30s (Melissa and Joey). Those are two very different audiences. There needs to be a cohesive set show list that follows the image they want to portray. If you change the outside appearance but leave the inside substance the same, its just putting mask over the problem. ABC Family needs to re-evaluate who they are trying to appeal to and how they should do that.

  7. Allyson Gerrard says:

    I’m not sure how I feel about the re-branding of ABC Family. I grew up watching this channel and it’s kind of sad seeing the name being changed to something so different. For example, ABC Family was the channel I relied on during the holidays. With Halloween coming up, this would be my go-to channel that aired all my nostalgic Halloween movies that I grew up watching. I think “Freeform” is trying a bit too hard to connect with their younger audience. I personally don’t think it’s a great transitional name, but I think it all depends on the shows they air. What I want to know is, will they still air all my favorite childhood movies during the holiday season? Or will I have to watch Hocus Pocus or Home Alone on Netflix now?

  8. Breanna Johnson says:

    Most people who know and love ABC Family will probably have a hard time adjusting to the change. In making this transition, the network has to take into account the number of viewers who will be confused by the transition because they may lose their current audience. Instead of completely rebranding the channel, they should have just made a few adjustments to the program. The network could have added a second title to their name to appeal to the audience they’re trying to embrace while still holding on to the audience it already has.

    If, however, the company did research on their current clients and found their messaging did not align with them, then I’d agree the rebranding is necessary. However, since they are refocusing their messaging entirely and trying to branch out to a new audience, they are risking losing a lot of viewers who will not recognize the brand and stop watching.

    It’s much more cost effective and wiser to work on keeping the clients already available rather than finding new clients. For that reason, instead of changing the name entirely and refocusing their message, they should have just made a few updates to obtain the audience they’re hoping for.

  9. Taylor Nelson says:

    When I first heard about the name change and rebranding of ABC Family, I was a little confused. Why would they take such a huge step away from a brand that has come to be known and loved and respected? ABC Family has certainly lovemarked its way into my life and home as one of the more family-friendly stations… and I always thought that was what they were best at. They are the go-to place for Christmas movies and Harry Potter weekends, experiences that I cherish as a kid, and which I thought ABC Family recognized they were strong at.

    While I understand the desire to recapture a larger audience, I do not think that an entire name change was necessary. I think they are seriously risking losing that family audience. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out, and if they will be successful in attracting that new “becomer”-aged audience.

    And, most importantly, I can’t help but wonder… will there still be monthly Harry Potter weekends?

  10. Megann Jakubek says:

    I enjoy the new label the company created for the younger audience, the “becomers.” I have seen a change in ABC Family since I started watching it when I was younger. I’m excited to see the changes they make as they rebrand themselves as Freeform. It will be a very major change for ABC and I hope that the die-hard ABC Family fans will be on board as well.

  11. Taylor Holmes says:

    I think that since ABC Family wants to reach a more specific audience, the rebranding makes sense. However, I am not a fan of the chosen name. Maybe it is just because I am simply not used to it yet, but the word freeform brings to mind free-spirited emotions and an almost artistic vibe. I do not feel that this name matches the programs that ABC family plays. Perhaps once the new branding materials are released in January my mind will change.

    I find it interesting that ABC Family defines their target audience as “becomers.” This term is new to me and I think that it perfectly describes the specific age demographic that ABC Family programs cater to.

  12. Tyler Otremba says:

    I think a rebranding of ABC Family is a great idea and much needed. Disney Channel, a sister network of ABC Family has rebranded many times. Although Disney has never changed its name like that, they have changed graphics, concepts, and themes many times over the years. ABC Family has remained relatively consistent throughout the years. A rebranding could help bring a larger audience to the network. It also shows a willingness by the company to grow with the families that grew up watching this network.

  13. Brittani Gomez says:

    Personally I think the rebranding might be great for the station, but at the same time, I have known ABC Family as ABC Family since I was very little so it may be difficult to relate to the change. If the studies show that it is necessary then I feel that it is good for the station but once again it will take some time to adjust. The name is not my favorite; it seems boring and hard to “connect with” but it is once again something that has to be adjusted to. I would have to learn more about the “becomer” audience to see what types of habits they have and what things they are attracted to in order to answer that. If they are happy with the change the time may be right since my generation is getting older and moving away from the station to other channels.

  14. Margaret Staniforth says:

    I think ABC Family is smart for rebranding. ABC Family had so much influence on the childhoods of younger millennial audiences. The network needs to decide to either grow up with its current audience and rebrand to reach millennials as they age, or figure out how to get the attention of the next generation. We don’t really know what will make the”becomers” stand out from the generations before them, so it seems fitting to offer them a network called Freeform.

  15. Cattarina Lovins says:

    The rebrand was definitely necessary for ABC since its viewership has been declining and it’s been getting beat out by other teen drama TV shows. However, the name seems ambiguous and a bit long. With “Freeform” it’s hard to understand ABC’s new brand or purpose. If an organization is going to do a rebrand, it should select a name that reflects the rebrand, not one that leaves audiences and potential audiences wondering what it’s about. In addition, ABC should focus more on its television programs and its communication of those programs because that would garner effective long-term results more than a short-term name change.

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