I grew up watching television on networks like Disney channel, Nickelodeon and ABC family. ABC family was a network that I watched through my teen years and still enjoy sometimes. I think this was one of their most successful branding strategies; advertising to such a wide range of ages in a whole family. Instead of continuing that strategy they are completely rebuilding their brand and changing their name from ABC family to Freeform in order to attract a new audience. According to the article, Why Is ABC Family Changing Their Name To Freeform? Network Wants To Target Broader Audience, from the International Business Times, “The Disney-owned network wants to change their identity in the New Year because they don’t want the “family” persona any longer, Vulture reported in October. After 30 years, the name “ABC Family” will be no more.” In our always-evolving society, networks are forced to adapt and keep their content up to date in order to keep their ratings high. They want to appeal to the audience they think will bring them the most profit and popularity, which is teenagers and young adults ages 14-34. Sarah Banet-Weiser talks about how Nickelodeon is branded towards children and the idea that they are involved and empowered, where ABC family originally branded towards a family fun experience, but now wants to generate an audience of young adults who are unique and adventurous.
Their main goal is to commodify the experience of being an innovative teen/young adult and to promote the idea of pushing boundaries and creating your own path. They want their viewers to feel “free” and by watching their network you can achieve that freedom to create anything and be anything you want. In an article on Vulture about this change it says, “’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,’”. I think ABC family was competing with too many other networks for the family audience, so they felt the need to narrow their audience to a specific age range, especially one that will advertise for them the most on social media. The reason they want this age of viewers is because they are the most prominent online and on social media, therefore they can do the most promoting for the network and shows and bring in the most profit.
The article on Vulture explains their reasoning for the switch in name and branding by saying, “Specifically, having been among the first cable channels to cater to the rising millennial tide in the mid-’00s, Ascheim and his team now believe those same millennials are about to be yesterday’s target audience. Instead, Freeform will be all about what it’s calling Becomers”. The becomers are the younger brothers and sisters of the millennials, who are on the rise with their coming of age and strong social media presences. Similar to how Sarah Banet-Weiser talks about Nickelodeon, ABC Family/Freeform has the same idea of empowering their audience to feel as though they have a voice and are being heard. Freeform wants to be there for the young adults who are going through the major firsts in their lives like first car, first love, first apartment. The shows on the network all relate to these life stages therefore the viewers feel emotional connections to the shows, which leads to loyalty.
They have kept mainly all of the same shows, and instead just trying to add more shows that have those main young adult lifestyle themes. For example, Pretty Little Liars has been on the network for a while and has a huge following because it has themes like mystery, love and friendship, which everyone can relate to. Therefore their name change doesn’t have too much effect on the network because they aren’t changing their shows, the name just didn’t fit with the look anymore. They also continue to play movies and have their 25 days til Christmas holiday specials, which is what they are very popular for. It is still a very family friendly network, and has a wide range of shows and movies that anyone would enjoy, but for branding purposes they needed the new name and look to get their target audience.
Even though I am not a huge supporter of the new name, I do still enjoy the network and the content it plays. Some of the new original shows are pretty cheesy, but as long as they still have the classic shows and holiday countdown, then they still have me as viewer.
Vultaggio, M. (2015, December 18). Why Is ABC Family Changing Their Name To Freeform? Network Wants To Target Broader Audience. Retrieved November 30, 2016, from http://www.ibtimes.com/why-abc-family-changing-their-name-freeform-network-wants-target-broader-audience-2233137
Adalian, J. (2015, October 06). ABC Family Is Changing Its Name to … Freeform? Retrieved November 30, 2016, from http://www.vulture.com/2015/10/abc-family-is-changing-its-name-to-freeform.html
Banet-Weiser, S. (2007). Kids rule!: Nickelodeon and consumer citizenship [PDF].