Freeform, formerly known as ABC Family, is an American cable television and satellite television channel that is owned by Freeform Worldwide Inc., a subsidiary of the Disney–ABC Television Group division of The Walt Disney Company. The channel generally offers contemporary as well as family-oriented programming aimed at a wide audience, but primarily features series and movies aimed at teenagers and young adults from ages 14 to 34; its programming includes Broadcast syndication/off-network syndicated reruns and original series, feature films and television film, and some Religious broadcasting|religious programming.
The network was founded in 1977 as an extension of televangelist Pat Robertson's Christian television ministry, and eventually evolved into a family-focused entertainment network as The Family Channel by 1990. In 1998, it was sold to Fox Kids Worldwide Inc. and renamed Fox Family. On October 24, 2001, Fox Family Channel and Fox Family Worldwide were sold to The Walt Disney Company, in a sale that also included Saban Entertainment. On October 6, 2015, Disney–ABC Television Group announced that the network would rebrand as Freeform, a change that took effect on January 12, 2016.
Current programming blocks
- Funday – Launched in 2014, "Funday" is the network's block of feature films on Sundays (the running time of the block varies depending on the day's film schedule), with a principal focus on films aimed at teenagers, young adults and family audiences.
Seasonal programming blocks
- 25 Days of Christmas – The channel has been known for airing many Christmas specials, such as the Rankin-Bass programs The Little Drummer Boy and Santa Claus Is Coming to Town. ABC Family has since expanded this holiday programming, adding made-for-television and theatrically-released movies, a litany of Rankin-Bass sequels (this was complicated somewhat because the broadcast rights of some of the original specials, including Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, were still owned by CBS), and other original programming to create "The 25 Days of Christmas". This program block airs in primetime on weekdays and from noon through primetime on weekends from December 1 to 25th each year, and has existed since 1996 under ABC Family's previous brand as The Family Channel. The block has aired some movies that are not necessarily holiday-related; in 2006, for example, movies from the Harry Potter film series were shown along with Mary Poppins (the 2004 Enhanced Home Theater Mix version with redubbed sound effects was broadcast until 2013, when the master was updated) and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Also that year, Dr. Seuss on the Loose and The Cat in the Hat were added, however, not with How the Grinch Stole Christmas. However, ABC Family does remove some portions of these specials due to time constraints or song clearance issues, including the "Peppermint Mine" scene in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the "I'm Kubla Kraus" song number in Jack Frost. The "25 Days of Christmas" also features special Christmas episodes of the channel's original series (with seven different shows airing Christmas specials in 2014, including "The Fosters", "Pretty Little Liars", "Chasing Life", "Baby Daddy", "Switched At Birth", and "Melissa and Joey").
- 13 Nights of Halloween – The success of "25 Days of Christmas" led to this Halloween-themed spin-off, which airs from October 19 to October 31 each year. The block was created in 1998 during the Fox Family era, as the "13 Days of Halloween," which was subsequently renamed to the current "13 Nights of Halloween" in 2002 following Disney/ABC's purchase of the channel. The programming block became one of the biggest successes for the network; however, it was not broadcast in 2003 as the channel's new programming executives simply decided not to air the block for reasons that remain unclear. The "13 Nights of Halloween" returned in 2004, which included reruns ofScariest Places on Earth (which debuted as part of the original block during the Fox Family era) and the premiere of the original made-for-TV movie The Hollow. The 2005 schedule provided a return to more traditional Halloween programming and scary movies. It has been steadily growing ever since, but has not received the same attention as it had in the Fox Family era. Halloween-themed films, thrillers and horror films are commonly aired during the "13 Nights of Halloween" (such as Hocus Pocus, The Sixth Sense, Corpse Bride, Scooby Doo, and occasionally Stephen King's It and Nightworld: Lost Souls). The "13 Nights of Halloween" also features Halloween specials of the channel's original series (including Pretty Little Liars, which has had three Halloween-centered episodes during the drama's five-season run to date).
- Summer Crush – Since 2010, ABC Family has aired a ten-day event featuring teen-oriented and romance films from July 29 to August 7 (scheduled during the final week of school-designated summer breaks in some locations). Originally known as "Campus Crush," the block was renamed "Summer Crush" in 2013. Movies featured in the lineup have included Prom, The Princess Diaries, The Last Song, So Undercover, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Hairspray, Legally Blonde, and Billy Madison. During this period, ABC Family also airs special prom- or romance-themed episodes of its original series.
- Spring Crush – In 2013, ABC Family debuted "Spring Crush," an Easter weekend offshoot of "Campus/Summer Crush," as a four-day event from April 18 to April 21 (Easter Sunday); it was expanded to five days in 2014 (running that year from April 16 to 20). The block features a mix of teen-oriented and prom-themed movies (such as Tangled,Hop, the Cinderella Story movie series, The Little Mermaid, and Fame). In 2013, ABC Family debuted an original musical-comedy film, Lovestruck: The Musical, as part of this lineup.
Past programming blocks
- ABC Family Action Block / Jetix – The "ABC Family Action Block" debuted on the network in March 2002 (as part of a reduction of its children's programming), featuring various live action and (primarily) animated children's programs such as Medabots, Beyblade, Digimon: Digital Monsters, Daigunder and Get Ed. The block was rebranded as "Jetix" in February 2004, at the same time that Toon Disney launched its own action-oriented block of the same name. Of its long list of programs, the Power Rangers series was its most successful. ABC Family's Jetix block was discontinued in September 2006, at the same time the companion Toon Disney block was expanded (taking over more than half of that channel's schedule); sitcom repeats currently air on ABC Family in Jetix's former timeslot from 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. Eastern Time. Most of Jetix's programming had previously aired on Fox Kids and Fox Family. The Jetix brand remained in use by Toon Disney until that channel was relaunched as Disney XD on February 13, 2009, effectively discontinuing the Jetix brand in the United States outright.
- The Positive Place – Running from 1991 to 1994 as The Family Channel, "The Positive Place" was a weekly block that aired Sunday early-evenings (from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time) featuring first-run episodes and reruns of original and acquired programs (including Rin Tin Tin: K-9 Cop, Maniac Mansion, Big Brother Jake and Zorro).
Relationship with Family Channel (Canada)
Aside from some common programming and the fact that both channels target a similar audience, the various iterations of CBN/Fox/ABC Family have had no affiliation with theCanadian specialty channel Family Channel. The existence of that channel (owned by Toronto-based production company DHX Media) has occasionally led to the presumption that the two channels are affiliated. Family Channel and ABC Family both have had a significant connection to The Walt Disney Company (Disney owns ABC Family outright; Family Channel has primarily acquired its foreign programming from ABC Family sister networks Disney Channel, Disney Junior and Disney XD, a relationship that will end in January 2016, following a four-month transition period in which programming owned by the Disney Channels Worldwide U.S. networks will become exclusive to the Corus Entertainment-owned Canadian version of Disney Channel, which launched on September 1, 2015). However, the two channels developed separately in each country, and as such, neither channel can be considered an international version of the other, especially given that ABC Family is advertiser-supported, whereas Family Channel is licensed as apremium channel (although it is carried as a basic service on many Canadian cable and satellite providers) and therefore is not allowed to accept traditional advertising under theCanadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission's licensing rules for cable television services.
The Canadian channel's original owners, Allarcom and First Choice, had first proposed using the "Family Channel" name in 1987. The American channel did not adopt the "CBN Family Channel" name until August 1988 (one month before Canada's Family Channel debuted), and eventually dropped the CBN name from its branding two years later in September 1990. Nevertheless, some American cable providers confusingly have displayed Family Channel's 1988–1998 "Paint and Sun" logo as that of ABC Family's logo onelectronic program guides, and occasionally the reverse has occurred with ABC Family's Robertson-era logo as The Family Channel appearing in some Canadian listings (the "Family" script in ABC Family's 1988–1998 logo as The (CBN) Family Channel partially resembles that of the Canadian Family Channel's original logo). Ironically enough, due to Disney Channel's longtime programming agreement with the Canadian service, Family Channel has long been often thought of as a de facto Canadian version of Disney Channel.
ABC Spark (Canada)
Main article: ABC Spark On October 26, 2011, The Walt Disney Company and Toronto-based media company Corus Entertainment entered into a partnership to launch a Canadian version of ABC Family under the name ABC Spark, which launched on March 23, 2012. The channel, which is licensed by the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission as a Category B specialty channel (which under CRTC rules, allows Canadian digital cable and direct broadcast satellite providers to optionally choose to carry the channel), is aimed at teenagers and young adults between 15 and 34 years of age. The ABC Spark name was purposefully chosen to avoid viewer confusion and/or legal issues with the unrelated Family Channel. With the announcement that ABC Family would rebrand as Freeform, it is unknown whether Corus Entertainment will license the new name and branding to be implemented on the U.S. channel for the Canadian service. ABC Spark is available on many Canadian cable and satellite providers including Cogeco,Rogers Cable, Bell TV, Shaw Cable and Telus.
The Family Channel/Challenge (U.K.)
Main article: Challenge (TV channel) In 1993, International Family Entertainment, in partnership with Flextech, launched an international version of The Family Channel in the United Kingdom, featuring a mix of original family-oriented programming, reruns of American series and programming from the MTM Enterprises/TVS library. In April 1996, International Family Entertainment sold its 61% controlling interest to Flextech, giving that company full control of the channel. The channel was relaunched on February 3, 1997 as Challenge TV, an outgrowth of the U.K. Family Channel's weekend block of game shows that launched in October 1996 under the brand "Family Challenge Weekend".
With the 2006 introduction of new shows to the network by Disney, many parents have reacted negatively to ABC Family's programming, feeling that the network has gone from family friendly to "too risqué," and that content in shows like Greek, The Secret Life of the American Teenager, The Fosters and Becoming Us is far too racy for family viewing. Critics feel that ABC Family executives are only after attracting viewers, without concern about showing young people in questionable scenarios in its series and films. Mostly, the main focus of the criticism is on teenage pregnancy, [ underage drinking and LGBT-related issues. It should be noted that the channel's programming content standards had changed several years earlier after the sale of the channel by Pat Robertson and International Family Entertainment, and the channel had even aired some acquired series and movies that contain profanity, violence and sexual content or dialogue after the sale to News Corporation, only running them somewhat more so since being purchased by The Walt Disney Company as it chose to refocus the channel more towards a teen and young adult audience to reduce programming redundancy with its existing family-oriented cable network Disney Channel.
The persistent insistence was though that the channel was contractually required to keep the word "Family" in its name (a situation that would have required any of its succeeding owners to negotiate out of such a clause or create an entirely new network over Fox/ABC Family's channel space, effectively cancelling all of the channel's existing carriage contracts, without any obligation by cable and satellite providers to put the replacement service in the channel slot vacated by Fox Family); in fact, it is the perception based on its name alone in audience testing conducted by the network that revealed some infrequent viewers thought the channel was aimed specifically at families was what resulted in Disney–ABC's decision to rebrand ABC Family as Freeform, with network president Ascheim refuting the longstanding claim regarding the inclusion of "Family" in the name as an urban legend in announcing the rebrand as Robertson never included such a contractual clause.
ABC Family does air parental advisory tags at the beginning of some TV-14 rated programs, such as That '70s Show and some episodes of The Secret Life of the American Teenager, Pretty Little Liars, Twisted and The Fosters.
- Pretty Little Liars (2010-2017)
- The Fosters (2013-2018)
- Good Trouble (2019-Present)
- Stitchers (2015-2017)
- Shadowhunters (2016-2019)
- The Bold Type (2017-2021)
- "Stay with Us, We're CBN" (1977–85; as CBN Satellite Service and CBN Cable Network)
- "Just Watch Us" (1985–88; as CBN Cable Network)
- "Families are Moving to CBN" (1986; as CBN Cable Network; used concurrently with "Just Watch Us")
- "Together, We're Family" (1988–91; as The CBN Family Channel and The Family Channel)
- "The Greatest in the Family" (1991–95; as The Family Channel)
- "There's Nothing Stronger" (1995–96)
- "Just Watch Us Now" (1996–98)
- "You Belong" (1998–2000; as Fox Family)
- "It's Electric" (2000–01)
- "It's All About You!" (2001–03; as ABC Family)
- "Everything You Want to Know from A to Z" (2003–06)
- "A New Kind of Family" (2006–16)
- "Become With Us" (2016–2018)
- "A little forward" (2018-present)