Is ABC Family's Rebranded Network Name 'Freeform' a Good Idea?

Is ABC Family's Rebranded Network Name 'Freeform' a Good Idea?

ABC Family is no more. ABC Family is rebranding as a new network called Freeform. The change will take place in January 2016, coinciding with many of the former ABC Family's shows return for winter premieres. Speaking about the change network President said that Freeform more closely represents their audience. The audience which is known as the "Becomer" demographic AKA those from the ages of 14-34.  So is this the start of a new era or the beginning of the end? Here are the pros and cons of the new network name, Freeform.

Pros: There's Endless Possibilities Now  

Right off the bat, there's no denying that the name ABC Family is very restrictive. It implies a certain type of programming and a very specific audience. It implies kid-friendly, family appropriate programming and that's just not something that ABC Family produces -- and hasn't for quite some time. 

There's no kind of preconceptions or ideas about Freeform. We'll get into the laziness and weirdness about that name in a bit, but it is completely open. There is no label you can rightly put on Freeform because it is so open-ended. Any and every type of show can exist on a network like Freeform. ABC Family has been producing shows of any and every type for quite a while. Despite the fact that they both employ and present pretty people is there anything that connects a sitcom like Baby Daddy to a nighttime soap like Pretty Little Liars? Not at all. Freeform isn't so much a rebranding as it is embracing of an identity. ABC Family isn't necessarily changing they're just acknowledging their eclectic group of shows. 

The mocking is fast approaching but first it is smart on Freeform's part to target Millennials and a younger audience. If nothing else, it's just good business. A young audience is incredibly important to the ratings system. Freeform's focused target of 14 to 34 year-olds is right in line with the key demographic that networks and advertisers love to cater to and attract attention. The press release that announced the change made sure to underline this point. The audience Freeform plans to target is among the biggest spenders in the country.

Cons: Freeform Is Trying Too Hard

On the other hand, Freeform is one of the laziest and stupidest network names I've ever heard. I see no originality or creativity in naming your network essentially "Random". It just reeks of trying too hard to seem "hip." This isn't your regular TV network, this is a cool TV network. There are no rules here. We're free spirits and we can do whatever we want because we're Freeform. In fact the more you say it, the more Freeform sounds like some kind of cult targeting Millennials than a TV network trying to stay relevant. 

It's a methodology that becomes even clearly in the promo videos released with the announcement. It is the marketing equivalent of Amy Poehler's character in Mean Girls. The middle aged person trying desperately to be just one of the young, hot and popular people. Freeform is not only shown in as much flashy fonts as possible, it's even given it's own hastag up front. The text that opens the video doesn't say that "ABC Family is becoming Freeform", it's "ABC Family is becoming #Freeform". See kids, they know that fancy internet talk and Twitter speak. 

There's also this whole idea that this change is exciting or ground breaking in some way. You can see it in the promo with all the actors saying buzzwords that are supposed to generate some kind of anticipation. I get the desire to build hype over a big announcement but this is not an adventure. This is a corporate decision to try to make the network more money. It is not some rebellious ultimate Millennial power statement. 

Risks Don't Always Pay Off

One or two of these tactics probably would be enough but Freeform has taken the kitchen sink approach to its announcement. It is more likely to turn audiences off by the sheer desperation of it all than to bring them into the fold. 

There's also the added danger of changing the name to something so different. The way people watch TV is definitely changing and anyone who really loves Pretty Little Liars will know when it comes back and where to watch it. Still I can't help but think of other new channels like OWN or FXX which have struggled simply because no one really knows quite how to find them or what they even are anymore.

Ultimately though I think the silliness of Freeform will eventually subside. It's a dumb name but so was changing the SciFi Channel to SyFy and that didn't tank the network. (Though it didn't exactly reinvorigate it either.) ABC Family needed a new name and Freeform isn't a great name but at least it is a new one. In its inherent vagueness it also captures the essence of the network which is just anything.

(Image and video courtesy of ABC Family)


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