At first glance at this logo above there might be some confusion on what Freeform even is. Launched as ABC Family in 2001, the network made the executive decision to change their name to Freeform this past January. But why you might ask? Much of it had to do with the demographic the network is now trying to target. With a name like ABC Family it is implied that all the content on the channel would be appropriate for the whole family. “Whole-some,” and “family-friendly,” were words that came to mind when non-viewers were asked what ABC Family means to them (Walker). These meanings that were once associated with the network no longer fit the mold of the image they wanted to portray. The edgier and a little provocative content on the network attracts a different group.
The name change came from creating a more appropriate place for the shows and social platforms aired on the channel, which are now targeted more towards young adults rather than families. For this reason the name change is not just a name change but rather a completely new outlook on the whole experience that this network is offering viewers. Relating this to the article, The Nickelodeon Brand: Buying and Selling the Audience, it states, “For Nickelodeon, this experience is about kids’ empowerment and a specific kind of citizenship, where the network claims to “respect” kids by creating a network just for them.” Although a different experience than Freeform offers, Nickelodeon has found success by believing in the experience they offer and fully committing to it. I think that this was a smart move by Freeform to change their name so their brand is a much more accurate representation of who they want to be.
Last year the network coined the term “Becomers.” Freeform is the TV home for the “Becomers,” and this is the demographic category they are attracting to their market. The “Becomers,” are a life stage (Armin). Freeform president, Tom Ascheim states, “It’s that place between childhood and adulthood. Proverbially we say between your first kiss and your first kid. Kind of starts in high school, goes till, I don’t know, when you’re 20 or something, maybe 30.” The name Freeform is speaking to these individuals in a really specific way. These “Becomers,” ‘really are in formation kind of freely’ (Ascheim). Freeform not only stands to reach this demographic category, but also represents an important time in society where media content is basically everywhere. Like the name implies, media content comes in every shape, package, size and format, and on any screen (Walker).
The new Freeform is supposed to put you in a mood every single time you flip that channel on your television. It is spontaneous and creative (Walker). “It’s a place where the parties are better. It’s a place I know that I would like to spend a lot of time, and I’m sure our audience is going to want to spend a lot of time, too” (Ascheim). According to the Nickelodeon article, “The language of the brand is is maintained by personal narratives-lifestyle, identity, empowerment – more than a more historical language of advertising.” These strong adjectives describing the Nickelodeon network is what makes it work. I think the same applies for Freeform- having a strong brand presence makes all the difference and I hope that their audience responds positively to this.
Once the name change took place, Freeform had a lot to live up to with all these promises behind their new image. The old ABC Family got a lot of their viewership off streaming platforms for their shows simply because the experience was better than watching it live on TV (Poggi). Freeform decided to expand their digital platform with an abundance more live and on-demand content, short-form video, fan contributions and social conversations (Poggi). In my opinion, this is one of the smartest strategies the new network could have done. Technology is catching up with television and people just aren’t sitting down to watch live television shows anymore. By creating a big digital platform this ensures that Freeform won’t lose their consumers who aren’t watching their content directly on the TV.
Audiences will now have more choice and control over how and when they consume their content (Poggi). This is key. With the hectic lives that the young adults they’re targeting live, it is hard to sit down every week at the same time to keep up with a show. By having the option to watch shows at their own leisure this brings in so many more individuals. Freeform digital allows binge and stream episodes, and who doesn’t love to spend a Sunday afternoon binge watching shows until reality hits around 9pm. This also is a great opportunity for advertising on the Freeform digital platform because users can now interact with ads (Poggi). The network is also working to make their advertisements less interruptive and more customizable-a win win for all parties involved.
Changes have also been made to the Freeform app, making it easier for users to navigate and there will be more content available (Poggi). Looking back at the article, The Nickelodeon Brand: Buying and Selling the Audience, it states, “Development of brand culture, where the brand matters more than the product, and corporations sell an experience or a lifestyle more than a thing.” This is exactly what Freeform is doing by considering their target audience’s lifestyle from the second they wake up to the time to they go to bed. It’s about creating a network and an atmosphere that flows into the “Becomers” lives.
The new name change to “Freeform,” has truly changed the whole presence of the network. It is now fresh, bold and innovative, rather than being wholesome and family-friendly. So far, audiences are responding positively after the launch (Poggi). There has already been in a shift in perception.
Banet-Weiser, S. (2007). The Nickelodeon brand: Buying and selling the audience. Nickelodeon and Consumer Citizenship. North Carolina: Duke University Press.
LLC, U. (2016, January 13). Brand new: New name, logo, and on-air look for Freeform done in-house. Retrieved December 1, 2016, from http://www.underconsideration.com/brandnew/archives
Poggi, J. (2016, April 7). Freeform lives up to its new name by experimenting with content, ad formats. Retrieved December 1, 2016, from http://adage.com/article/special-report-tv-upfront/freeform/303387/
Walker, D. (2016, January 11). ABC family to Freeform: Six things to know about the new name of the “pretty little liars” network. Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/davewalker/2016/01/11/