In the wake of a long bout of family brand therapy, they just decided to abandon the family. Yes, after 3,000 name candidates and 1,200 focus group testers, ABC Family has arrived at its new name – Freeform.
ABC Family has come a long way. It first launched in 1961 as the Christian Broadcasting Network, morphed into the CBN Family Channel, then was rechristened, or unchristened depending how you look at it, as The Family Channel Fox Kids. A couple more purchases and name changes later, Disney owned the network as ABC Family. While its content has evolved past just wholesome, family-friendly shows, it seems as though the most freeform aspect of this channel has been its name.
Generating almost as much buzz as the rename itself, the network opened up about its strategy to target the demographic it calls “becomers,” 14-34 year-olds who are slightly younger than the notoriously elusive millenials (we’ll have to add “becomers” to our list of PopNamer ideas). Edgy programming like Pretty Little Liars and the sci-fi drama Kyle XY show that ABC Family, like its audience, had been growing out of its hand-me-downs, graduating from Velcro shoes, ready for its first Taylor Swift concert. It was time to leave the family behind. So, “becomers,” just how becoming is Freeform?
Freeform is a real word often applied to art, such as a freeform sculpture that has a flowing shape, or freeform improvisational jazz. However, the suggestive power of this name is more interesting than its literal definition. ‘Free’ conveys the idea of unrestricted volition, doing what you want, which is really the only thing you want as a “becomer,” right? ‘Form’ pairs nicely with this idea of freedom – that you can actually influence the network and make it your own through social media. But, while ABC Family encourages their viewers to post about the name change and ‘get involved,’ I feel that the interactivity and spontaneity may be overpromised. After all, it’s still a TV network with scheduled programming and advertisements, not a pottery studio. Still, these are relatable messages, steeped with Disney optimism and imagination.
When the channel guide is full unpronounceable initialisms, Freeform is a breath of fresh air, even though the name doesn’t really hint at the type of programing on the network and could give the impression that it’s free to watch. Freeform is facing forward, telling the becomers of the world that if they wanna be what they wanna be, say what they wanna say, they’ve become to the right place.