ABC Family is changing its name. Starting in January 2016, the Disney-owned TV network targeting younger viewers will be known as Freeform. The network will begin promoting the new branding right away, committing tens of millions of dollars to getting the word out, while the new logo will be unveiled in a few months.
This will be the first time in 27 years that the cable channel won’t have “family” in its name. Launched in 1977 by Pat Robertson, it was named the CBN Family Channel in 1988 and kept the word in as it went through various ownerships, named The FamilyChannel, Fox Family and then ABC Family. It was believed that there was a clause in the original sale by Robertson that would forbid any future owners from dropping the word “family” from the name though an ABCF rep said that there is no legal obstacle standing in the way of the network changing its moniker to Freeform. Another vestige from the early days of the channel, Robertson’s talk show The 700 Club, will continue to air on the rebranded network.
ABC Family’s decision to go for a new name was triggered by a gap in perception, said ABC Family President Tom Ascheim, noting that, according to research, core viewers understand the younger, social-media active brand while non-viewers associate it with wholesome and family-friendly programming. “We wanted to harmonize our content and out brand,” he said. “By achieving that harmony, we would be much better positioned to keep our core viewers and add new viewers.”