Get ready for ‘Freeform’ – Disney’s new name for its ABC Family cable channel. Disney will roll out the new name beginning with the 2016 winter season premieres of returning favorites “Pretty Little Liars,” “The Fosters,” “Young & Hungry,” and “Baby Daddy” and two new shows “Shadowhunters” and “Recovery Road.” As you can tell by the titles, the focus of ABC Family no longer reflects its original intended audience.
This change has been coming for some time as the channel slowly changed its programming focus from kid friendly material that the whole family could enjoy to shows that interest “Becomers” aka tweens, teens, and millennials. After acquiring the ‘Family Channel’ from Saban, Disney had some early successes, but then the channel floundered for a while not really sure of who its audience was (and mired in some contractual issues). The current leadership has set a firm new course that appears to be working well. (Not sure about those contractual issues though.)
According to ABC Family President Tom Ascheim, this evolution builds on ABC Family’s existing strategy of super serving “Becomers” – a life stage that spans people who are 14-34. The name, look, feel and attitude of the network will capture the nature of the Becomer audience and the modern way this audience generates and consumes media.
“Freeform evokes the spirit and adventure of our audience,” says Ascheim. “Freeform will deliver new, exciting original content as well as all the favorite shows our viewers already love on ABC Family.”
Disney says the name Freeform speaks to the mindset and attitude of what the channel has defined as Becomers. Traditionally, Becomers are in high school, college and the decade that follows and 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 exists between who they are and who they want to become. Becomers represent a life stage rather than a generation.
Of course this appeals to advertisers who want to reach that market.
Eleven years ago, ABC Family was ahead of the curve when it began super-serving Millennials to become their entertainment staple. Today, nearly 70% of 12-34 year olds are Millennials, but in five years, Millennials will be less than half of the target. Becomers are 69 million strong in the US, with an estimated spending power in the trillions. There are two billion Becomers worldwide.
The audience’s identity and experience are fluid as they explore endless possibilities and their passions take shape. Freeform personifies this fluidity and will deliver ideas, forms of content and ways of interacting with the brand. Freeform is inspired by the interconnection between content and audience, media and technology, interactive and linear, life stage and life style and the way Becomers interact with them all.
Fans of most of the current shows needn’t worry, the network remains committed to its critically acclaimed original series and programming stunts that have become pop-culture phenomena and made it so successful with the Becomer audience. “Pretty Little Liars,” “The Fosters,” “Young and Hungry” and “Baby Daddy” will all return in early 2016 for their winter premieres alongside the world premieres of new original series “Shadowhunters” and “Recovery Road.” Freeform will also continue the programming trajectory announced this April and will double the networks original programming over the next four years. New series pick-ups and series returns will also be announced later this month.
To further meet the needs and interests of Becomers, Disney Publishing Worldwide will also create new and exciting content dedicated to complementing and enhancing the Freeform experience, spanning multiple book formats under a new imprint with the same name, Freeform.
Do you fit into Disney’s idea of a ‘Becomer’? What do you think of the shift?