ABC Family’s Name Change Takes “Family” Out of the Picture

One of cable’s most-watched television networks, ABC Family, will be getting a name change in the new year. Starting January 2016, the network will be called Freeform. While the network’s hit shows will remain the same, the network hopes the name change will evoke what the shows are all about.

The network is known for family TV shows like Switched at Birth and Reba, with the occasional family-friendly film. The network also broadcasts content for older audiences, like Pretty Little Liars and Greek. In fact, some parents have questioned some of the network’s content for children, like seen on shapingyouth.org. Even IMDB has a parent resource for those questioning the mature content for their children.

According to Time Warner Cable Media, ABC Family’s average viewer age is 28, however the age range starts much younger than that in some cases. About ten years ago, the network shifted its focus to college students, particularly young women, while keeping its basis for providing shows for children during the day, and families at night. The network has broadcasted Disney material for years, attracting a much younger audience while retaining their target college audience with original programming.

So what is the reason behind the name change? It might have something to do with solidifying an audience demographic by removing the word “family” all together. The network has had two other names in the past (Fox Family and The Family Channel), all of which included a common theme: family.

According to ABC Family president Tom Ascheim, “Freeform evokes the spirit and adventure of our audience.” He said the name change will go along with the exciting, original content that the network already broadcasts. ABC Family’s goal is to attract an audience with ages between 14 and 34 with the name change, which doesn’t seem too different than its current viewership.

It’s likely the network no longer wishes to associate with a “family” theme, while still providing the same range of content. This way, they won’t lose viewership while they change the name to something more defining of the network’s brand.