The network currently known as ABC Family will become the network known as Freeform beginning January 1, network president Tom Ascheim announced Tuesday. The name change, which coincides with the return of network staple Pretty Little Liars, is part of the network's latest rebranding effort.
The network is shifting gears to focus on targeting folks it's dubbed "Becomers" a.k.a. viewers ages 14-to-34 who are experiencing a series of "firsts," as in first job, first heartbreak, first car, first really stupid network rebranding, etc. Last week, the sophomore series Chasing Lifebecame the latest casualty of the rebranding effort, probably because there wasn't much of an audience for "first cancer diagnosis." Which is a shame, because it was a very good series.
According to the network, Becomers are in high school and college and "represent a life stage rather than a generation," which sounds like something Ted Mosby would say, or something a hipster at your nearest coffee house or independent bookstore might think was really insightful but was actually just stupid. The name is supposed to signify fluidity of ideas, but to me conjures up awful open-mic nights featuring interpretive dance or a network that teaches viewers how to paint, but not in the cool Bob Ross way.
Still, rebranding isn't a bad idea for the network. The name ABC Family no longer represents the network's programming interests, having simply adopted the "family" moniker when the Walt Disney Company purchased Fox Kids Worldwide, which had rebranded the channel as Fox Family from the Family Channel when it took over from the Christian-oriented CBN Family Channel in the '90s (don't worry, religious programming like The 700 Club will continue to air after the name change). The name ABC Family misrepresents the network as one for young children, which isn't the case, as anyone who's watched Pretty Little Liars or The Fosters can attest (especially considering how creepy the men of Rosewood are on a routine basis).
What's most interesting about the network's name change is that according to TV Insider, the name Freeform was chosen from one of 3,000 possible contenders after being tested by a focus group of 1,200 viewers. I'm going to assume all of those viewers were drunk and/or liars, because surely there was something better than Freeform. Literally anything is better than Freeform.