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The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Viewers struggle to switch from ABC Family to Freeform

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It’s a Saturday morning. Rain is sprinkling outside the window. It’s too gloomy to go anywhere, so it’s the perfect weather to sit on the couch and watch TV. But what to watch? Flip through channels, and odds are there is a movie marathon on ABC Family, featuring a lineup of favorite throwback flicks. It is at this moment that viewers realize, “nothing is getting done today.”

Well, that rainy Saturday ritual has become a thing of the past. Now, turning to the same channel takes viewers to essentially the same programming, but a different name: Freeform.

The channel has been a staple of family viewing since 2001. For many millennials who’ve grown up with it, it’s a go-to channel for feel-good entertainment. ABC Family always seemed so comfortable in its niche providing relatable shows and movie marathons that it’s choice to rebrand is unexpected.

Researching this change in name brought up some surprising discoveries. Usually a cable network rebrands because it is failing. For ABC Family, this was not the case according to Freeform still broadcasts the same shows as the previous channel, it’s just a name change to keep capturing TV’s most elusive audience – young people.

Last year alone the network drew in an average of 1.09 million total viewers, according to Nielsen seven-day ratings. Also, it was the No. 1 network among women.

“It will always be ABC Family, just like the Willis Tower will always be the Sears Tower,” said Daniela DeFrancesco, a junior in the College of Engineering.

Another aspect to this change is the fact that the network’s logo reads “Freeform (previously ABC Family).” This has the potential to mislead viewers, who are already wary of the change.

However, undeveloped branding is only part of the problem.

Margaret Mauney, a junior in the College of Education asked, “What does Freeform even mean?” Unfortunately, commercials for the channel provide no insight into the name’s significance.

Network president Tom Ascheim told, “The behind-the-scenes shift has been taking place for years, and all that’s left is to leave behind a name that the network has outgrown.”

It’s true that over the years Freeform has been diversifying it’s programming, so perhaps this name change now better reflects the personality of the channel.

Despite this, it may be a while before viewers fully embrace Freeform. In the minds of long-time fans, rainy Saturday TV watching will always be on ABC Family.

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