Freeform may have seemed like a television channel, or app, that appeared out of nowhere. Still, it was a strange rebranding on Disney’s part to create a new channel that wasn’t strictly carrying the Disney logos and had a different style of content on top of its previous channel’s duties with 31 Nights of Halloween and similar season programming blocks.
Overall, the network carried more familiar programming, which may have influenced its seemingly sudden appearance. Below, we’ve detailed what Freeform is, such as the history of the channel, when it began, truly adopted the Freeform name, and other information regarding the network, such as its programming of original content and re-runs.
Unraveling the History of Freeform
As stated above, Freeform had long been associated with Disney as one of their networks, likely due to its name since 2001, ABC Family. Since it transformed from ABC Family to Freeform in 2016, which was initially announced in 2015 before it became official in January 2016. The transformation to Freeform from ABC Family was first hinted at when Variety broke the news as early as December 2014 that a possible rebrand was coming.
Even recently, the company changed its logo. One of the most notable programs early in the transformation to Freeform in 2016 was the Marvel series Cloak & Dagger, the second half of season six of Pretty Little Liars, the Shadowhunters spinoff of the Mortal Instruments book series, and other original programs. The network has also retained its 31 Nights of Halloween programming from the ABC Family era, as mentioned above, and the 25 Days of Christmas programming from ABC Family.
Famed comedian Iliza Shlesinger had her first talk show premiere with Truth & Iliza, which started to end the first wave of Freeform content since the network name change. With Disney being the parent company of Freeform and the new slogan of “A Little Forward,” Freeform was able to premiere the ABC spinoff series of Black-ish, Grown-ish.
Transitioning from ABC Family to Freeform
ABC Family was the more familiar network for anyone that recalls the programs, specials, and events listed above, such as 31 Nights of Halloween, as it ran under the same name for 15 years. The significant events it was known for, like the Halloween and Christmas programming that attracted the highest audiences each year for the platform were created at ABC Family and did so well for the platform it would a stupid move to stop when they transformed to Freeform.
ABC Family was more known for its more family-friendly content, which never really got too much into the adult late-night sitcoms but has been noted as an inspiration for Nick at Nite. ABC Family was primarily Disney programming, with television movies and other content that executives felt best to fit the network.
Shows like the earlier mentioned Pretty Little Liars spent their life on the network and have since been revived. Still, series like that didn’t premier until the later half of ABC Family’s career, and Freeform has carried similar content to such shows.
Overall, the transformation of ABC Family to Freeform was likely to adapt to competitors and join the world of streaming under one name, as the Freeform app can be found on smart devices such as Fire TV. Still, ABC Family was no such contender for streaming.
Before ABC Family: A Surprising Past
Now while Freeform’s appearance may have seemed so sudden that flocks of people who had regularly viewed ABC Family when channel surfing found Freeform as a new channel, upon closer inspection, much regular programming could be found, which could provide an easy link to ABC Family. However, before ABC Family changed to Freeform, although ABC Family had been the longest name on the platform, it had a long history before its sale to Disney.
While ABC Family had the longest holding of the network before it was ABC Family, it was owned by Fox, but even before that, it was something much more surprising, a Christian network. Although the news that ABC Family was not only owned by Fox but was also Christian-heavy in the content may seem surprising, many likely repressed the memory of the Christian series The 700 Club that had been forced to remain on the network through its various owners.
The original ownership and name aligned with what is now known as Freeform was part of the CBN Satellite Service, and had almost purely-religious programming in 1977. Still, by 1990 the network had needed to change to retain non-profit status or enable to make profits ethically.
Overall, the network underwent a few slight name changes since its first launch. Still, by the time 1990 came around, they decided to change to International Family Entertainment, where the true family-centered programming known well by ABC Family and even Freeform started to take shape.
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