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ABC Family Rebrands Itself In A Big Way, Becomes ‘Freeform’


If you’ve been watching Pretty Little Liars for years and have thought, “how on earth is this a family show?” then you’ll probably totally understand ABC Family’s new name.

In a major rebranding effort, the network will shed its family-exclusive persona and instead call titself “Freeform,” because they don’t want to be tied down, mom!

So what’s all this about, anyway?

Essentially, the new network name is the effort to rebrand the network as other than just family friendly. While they’ll still show programming that’s geared toward families and “wholesome,” they don’t want to be held down by that label that they’ve proven turns off potential viewers. They want to be associated less with 7th Heaven and more with a variety of programming and original shows, probably more in line with their smash hit Pretty Little Liars.

Network president Tom Ascheim explained the rebranding:

“With people who don’t watch the network, which turns out is the majority of this country, there’s a very different perception from our core viewers. It made us realize that for us to grow and reach new customers, we really had to do something about the perception gap, and not be hindered by our label.”

And apparently, this change has been a long time coming. Ascheim talks about the change as the culmination of over 10 years of reimagining the network:

“It really is an evolution of something that started 10 to 12 years ago when this network began to focus on what were then millennials. The network built incredible strength and incredible ratings success with young people, especially women. And then something funny happened on the way of the demographic dance where millennials were no longer synonymous with youth. The oldest ones are turning 40 in a couple of years.”

So, since millennials are growing up and perhaps growing away from ABC Family, the way for the network to remain relevant and engage with a younger generation of viewers is to shed the family-friendly image, and instead of appealing to millennials, appeal to a new audience that they’ve called “Becomers.”


What is a Becomer?

According to Ascheim, a Becomer is a person between 13 and 30-ish, who is still becoming the person they want to be:

“The most important question that young people ask themselves as they’re going from high school to their thirties is, ‘Who am I becoming?’ So we call the life stage ‘becoming’ and the people going through it Becomers.

Becomers represent a life stage rather than a generation. [Becomers] are navigating the wonderful, fun, exciting, and scary time in life when you experience the most firsts — first car, first apartment, first job, first love, first heartbreak — all the firsts that exist between who they are and who they want to become.”

With all these new names being coined, will the network find it difficult to retain name recognition and appeal to the new audience of Becomers? Ascheim and the team will “use every level and every platform that we have to bang the drum about our new name.”

The relaunch will coincide with the network’s super popular 25 Days of Christmas programming, and the rebranding will be complete by January 2016.

It’s a little hokey to me to be called a Becomer, and the “Freeform” name sounds gimmicky, but if it works, it’ll engage a new audience without having them feel like they’re too wholesome and lame for watching a network with “family” in the title.

Will you watch ABC Family if it’s called Freeform? Does the rebranding change your perception of the network?

Lisa Lo Paro
Lisa is a freelance writer and bibliophile living on the outskirts of New York City. She likes 2 a.m. with a good book, takes cream in her coffee and heavily filters her photos. Check out her blog The Most Happy, her Instagram, and Twitter.

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