2016 is here! It’s a new year, which comes with so many new things. Like… a new TV channel? Well, sort of. On January 12th, 2016 ABC Family finally made the switch the Internet has been hating off for the past couple of months. ABC Family is so 2015. Freeform is where it’s at in 2016.
Man, oh, man have I been waiting for this switch. Unlike many of my peers, ABC Family never held any nostalgia in my life due to my family’s late adaptation of cable. I remember those first few cable years were spent watching what I thought of as the ‘trifecta’ for surviving in a middle school environment- Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, and Disney Channel (Incidentally, all placed in a row number wise- 62, 63, and 64 respectively). It wasn’t until high school I realized that I maaaay have missed an essential channel when people would get excited about the ’25 Days of Christmas’ specials ABC Family would run. I never got into their holiday marathons, mostly because I’d only remember around the 20th of each month (‘Oh, hey, doesn’t that channel have a Christmas marathon right now…?). So when I heard ABC Family was changing its name to Freeform, I was interested in seeing how my peers, the fans of ABC Family, would react.
As of publishing, this announcement video has 768 likes and 354 dislikes. Not too bad for a drastic change, but it’s clear there’s some lingering resentment.
But why change the name at all? ABC Family is a 15 year-old name that has a strong, branded image. Why would Disney take something like that and change the name to something completely different? ABC Family had this copy and paste answer all down their twitter page a few days before the switch.
And it’s a good thing I grabbed that tweet when I did, because this is what the now defunct @ABCFamily Twitter page looks like:
For the younger people who grew up with ABC Family, it may come as a shock that ABC Family wasn’t always ABC Family. It confused me as well, as I starred at the channel’s Wikipedia page, that this channel hasn’t even been called ABC Family my entire life. It it’s forty years of existence, ABC Family has gone through many different name changes and many different owners. This channel had its start as part of the CBN Satellite Service , which was a part of the Christian Broadcast Network. As the title suggests, at this time the channel focused on Christian programming. The name then changed to CBN Cable Network to reflect the change of the channel now being broadcaster through cable. On its next name change is where we see the ‘Family’ title come in that stays incorporated for the next 28 years with The CBN Family Channel. This also signaled the change that the channel was straying a tad from its strictly Christian programs and started to play more family-focused programs.
Money always has a strange thing of affecting things. In order to protect the CBN‘s non-profit status, the channel was put under a new company, which then changed the name to simply The Family Channel. The channel was then sold in 1991 to Fox Family Worldwide, Inc. who renamed it Fox Family Channel. The Walt Disney Company then purchased Fox Family Worldwide in 1997, and along with it, the now-name-changer -as-we-know-it ABC Family.
Phew. All those changes can really make your head hurt.
All nostalgia aside, the name change is probably for the best. When listening to my friends talk about watching something on ABC Family, they never mentioned it being a family affair. This name change is only due to how ABC Family has evolved as a channel. Just look at what they’re airing. One of their most popular shows, Pretty Little Liars, has a predominately female audience who’s ages range from high school to young adult. They have another show that’s premiering Tuesday night called Shadowhunters. It’s based off of the popular Mortal Instrument series that’s- you guessed it- a YA series read by an audience that’s mostly young and female.
And using their own tweets and digging back through their Wikipedia page, ABC Family was fully aware that its name doesn’t fit the channel. With the name Freeform, Disney wants to make sure that people who may not regularly watch the channel understand that it’s not just a clean, cookie-cutter family channel- there’s dirt and an edge to it.
But you marathon lovers (at least of the TV variety) shouldn’t worry- besides the name, ABC Family isn’t changing much at the moment. All the shows that ran on ABC Family will still run on Freeform. 25 Days of Christmas is safe.