Freeform (TV channel)

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For the U.S. broadcast television network currently using Freeform's former 1990–98 name, see Television networks preceding Freeform#The Family Channel.
Freeform temp.svg
Launched April 29, 1977 (1977-04-29)
(as CBN Satellite Service)
August 1, 1988 (1988-08-01)
(as The CBN Family Channel)
September 15, 1990 (1990-09-15)
(as The Family Channel)
August 14, 1998 (1998-08-14)
(as Fox Family Channel)
November 10, 2001 (2001-11-10)
(as ABC Family)
January 12, 2016 (2016-01-12)
(as Freeform)
Owned by Disney–ABC Television Group
(ABC Family Worldwide)
Picture format 720p (HDTV)
Downgraded to letterboxed 480i for SDTV feed
Slogan Become With Us
Country United States
Language English
Broadcast area Nationwide
Headquarters Burbank, California
Formerly called
  • CBN Satellite Service (1977–81)
  • CBN Cable Network (1981–88)
  • The CBN Family Channel (1988–90)
  • The Family Channel (1990–98)
  • Fox Family Channel (1998–2001)
  • ABC Family (2001–16)
Replaced ABC Family
Sister channel(s) Disney Channel,
Disney Junior,
Disney XD,
Disney Cinemagic, ABC, Fusion,
Timeshift service Freeform East
Freeform West
DirecTV 311
1311 (VOD)
Dish Network 180
Available on most U.S. cable systems Consult your local cable provider or program listings source for channel availability
AT&T U-verse 1178 (HD)
178 (SD)
Verizon FiOS 699 (HD)
199 (SD)
Southern Fibernet 1207 (HD)
207 (SD)
Streaming media
WATCH Freeform
(U.S. cable internet subscribers only; requires login from pay television provider to access content)
Sling TV Internet Protocol television

Freeform ( ABC Family) is an American basic cable and satellite television channel owned by the Disney–ABC Television Group division of The Walt Disney Company. The network primarily features programming aimed at teenagers and young adults (with some programming skewing towards young women) between the ages of 14 and 34, a target demographic designated by the channel as "becomers"; its programming includes off-network syndicated reruns and original series, feature films, and made-for-TV original movies.

The network was founded in 1977 as the CBN Satellite Service, 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 News Corporation subsidiary Fox Family Worldwide. and renamed Fox Family.[1][2] 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; the channel altered its name to ABC Family on November 10 of that year.[3][4] 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.[5][6][7]


1977–98: Early years[edit]

The channel traces its origins to the launch of the CBN Satellite Service, an arm of Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), on April 29, 1977. Focusing mainly on religious programming, the channel was notable for being one of the first cable channels to distribute its signal nationally through satellite transmission (a method that HBO had first pioneered in September 1975). The channel's name was later changed to the CBN Cable Network on September 1, 1981, by which point, its carriage grew to one million homes with a cable television subscription. Around this time, the channel adopted a more secular programming format featuring a mix of recent and classic family-oriented series and films, while retaining some religious programs from various televangelists (mirroring the format used by CBN's independent television stations of that time).

On August 1, 1988, the word "Family" was incorporated into the channel's name to better reflect its format, rebranding as The CBN Family Channel. By 1990, the network had grown too profitable to remain under the Christian Broadcasting Network banner without endangering the ministry's non-profit status. The network was spun out into a new, for-profit company, International Family Entertainment, which would be owned by the Robertsons. Run by Pat Robertson's son Timothy, it would be partially owned by Liberty Media and TCI owner John C. Malone. Following the spin-off, the channel's name was subsequently changed to simply The Family Channel on September 15, 1990.[8]

As The Family Channel, it attracted a slightly older (and religious) audience that is not sought by advertisers; only about one-third of homes watching the network included children or youths. The Family Channel started airing programs aimed at preschool children, pre-teens, and teenagers to target all members of the family.[9] As a stipulation of the spin-out, The Family Channel was required to maintain daily airings of CBN's flagship program, The 700 Club.[10] During this time, from 1994 to 1997, The Family Channel sponsored NASCAR Winston Cup Series driver Ted Musgrave in the #16 Ford Thunderbird for Roush Racing.[11][12][13][14]

1998–2001: Fox Family[edit]

In 1997, News Corporation made an offer to acquire The Family Channel; the company eyed the network as a cable outlet for the popular Fox Kids lineup, then owned by a joint venture of News Corp. and Saban Entertainment, so it could compete against services such as Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon.[15] News Corporation entered into discussions to purchase a stake in the channel with IFE as a partner.[16] After competing bids by Viacom and Disney to acquire IFE as a whole, News Corp then made an offer of $1.8 billion.[17] On June 11, 1997, IFE was acquired by the Fox/Saban consortium Fox Kids Worldwide for $1.9 billion: the company itself was renamed Fox Family Worldwide.[18][19] The Family Channel was officially renamed Fox Family Channel on August 15, 1998.[1][2] With the change in ownership, Fox Family's operations were also migrated from Virginia Beach, Virginia (where the Christian Broadcasting Network is headquartered) and integrated with the operations of some of News Corporation's other cable channels in Los Angeles.[citation needed]

Following the sale to Fox/Saban, airings of The 700 Club were scaled back to two per day (though the sale agreement required the channel to air it three times daily,[20] once each in the morning, late evening and overnight hours), with the evening broadcast being moved out of prime time and pushed an hour later to 11:00 p.m. Eastern Time (from 10:00 p.m.). More cartoons were added to the channel's lineup, many of which were from the Fox Kids program library (such as Bobby's World, Eek! The Cat and Life with Louie), with about eight hours of cartoons airing each day. However, Fox Family also became a cornerstone for syndicating foreign television series (primarily those produced in English-speaking countries), such as the popular British S Club 7 television series, which became the flagship series for the channel until the early 2000s. The channel also syndicated many Canadian series including Angela Anaconda, Big Wolf on Campus, Edgemont, I Was a Sixth Grade Alien, and, briefly, The Zack Files. The channel also aired cartoons and anime programs based on video games, such as Donkey Kong Country, Megaman and Monster Rancher, with most airing as part of the channel's morning lineup, and added some recent family sitcoms as well. The new schedule also included reruns of Pee-wee's Playhouse, which had not been seen on television since 1991, when CBS pulled reruns of the series from its Saturday morning lineup following star Paul Reubens' arrest for indecent exposure at a pornographic movie theater in Sarasota, Florida.

When Fox Family Worldwide bought the channel, programmers sought a new dual audience – kids in daytime, families at night.[21] Fox Family's youth-oriented programming strategy alienated the network's core demographics of older viewers. The channel experienced a decline in viewership,[21] having fallen from 10th to 17th place in Nielsen ratings for cable networks.[21][22] In 1999, Fox spun off two digital cable channels from Fox Family, the Boyz Channel and the Girlz Channel, which both contained programs targeted at the respective genders. Both networks shut down after one year due to a lack of carriage—only having 100,000 subscribers, and a desire to invest more heavily in the main Fox Family channel.[23]

2001–06: Sale to Disney and rebranding as ABC Family[edit]

After being unable to reach a deal for Fox to sell its stake in the venture to Saban,[22] on October 24, 2001, The Walt Disney Company acquired Fox Family Worldwide for $2.9 billion cash plus $2.3 billion in debt assumption, which gave Disney control of the Fox Family channel, the Saban Entertainment library, the international Fox Kids networks controlled by FFW, and other assets.[24] The network was officially renamed ABC Family on November 10, 2001.[3][4][22] Analysts felt that Disney's purchase was influenced by the ongoing consolidation occurring in the media industry, such as the AOL/Time Warner merger, and a desire for a new outlet with heavy viewer penetration—at the time of the purchase, the network was seen in 83 million homes.[21][22]

Disney planned for the network to show reruns of ABC programming, although this strategy was hindered by the fact that ABC only held syndication rights to series that were produced by its Walt Disney Television and Touchstone Television divisions—whose distribution rights were held by Buena Vista Television.[25] ABC Family went on with a plan to become a "broad-appeal programming network with its own identity", picking up same-season encores of ABC series such as Alias, adding a weeknight sitcom block, and continuing to emphasize movies—having already bought 10-year cable rights to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. The network also announced plans to develop new original series.[21]

Second and final logo as ABC Family, used for over 13 years from 2003 to January 11, 2016.

The next major plan was to re-position the channel to market it to college students, young women, or to a more hip audience under the name "XYZ," a reverse reference to ABC; however, due to a stipulation thought to have been put in place by Robertson at the time of the original sale to News Corporation (allegedly mandating that the channel must have, for the entirety of its lifespan, the word "Family" included in its name), this concept was dropped; the existence of the stipulation was later dismissed as urban legend by ABC Family president Tom Ascheim at the announcement on October 6, 2015 of the network's re-branding to Freeform.[26][27] The XYZ branding was revisited at one point in 2003, for a program block titled "The XYZ", which featured live-action series and movies aimed at the aforementioned groups. The network was also used as a buffer to burn off failed ABC series, such as the reality competition series All American Girl, which featured Spice Girl Geri Halliwell. The network's strength was also increased through the production of original series and films.[28]

Disney continued to be subject to stipulations requiring CBN programming, requiring that The 700 Club be aired twice daily on the network[20] In 2005, Disney began to distance itself further from Robertson following his controversial remarks suggesting that Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez should be assassinated. An ABC Family spokesperson stated that it had no editorial control over The 700 Club and that it "strongly rejects the views expressed by Pat Robertson." Following the incident, the disclamiers aired before CBN programming on ABC Family were also amended with a more explicit statement indicating that the views expressed during the programs do not reflect those of the network.[29][30]

2006–16: "A New Kind of Family"[edit]

In August 2006, ABC Family introduced a new slogan and imaging campaign, "A New Kind of Family". The rebranding coincided with a new original programming strategy for the network that targeted the teen and millennial demographics:[31] following the re-branding, ABC Family began to introduce more original teen dramas, and series with more diverse portrayals of family life.[31][32] ABC Family's children's block Jetix was also moved exclusively to Toon Disney.[33]

New original series, such as Kyle XY, Greek and The Secret Life of the American Teenager proved popular for the network.[31][34] In July 2009, the network earned its best-ever ratings for the month of July in prime time and in total viewership, credited to The Secret Life of the American Teenager and new series Make It or Break It, 10 Things I Hate About You and Ruby & The Rockits, along with extended features from the Harry Potter film franchise and the television premiere of Labor Pains.[35]

Another new teen drama, Pretty Little Liars—based on the series of young adult mystery novels by Sara Shepard, frequently broke ratings records for the network;[31][36] In 2014, Pretty Little Liars was among the top five scripted series on basic cable channels among multiple demographics of females, and the was the second-highest rated cable series among females 12-34. Throughout the year, ABC Family as a whole experienced its highest annual primetime ratings among viewers 12-34 and 18-34.[37] Owing to his success at ABC Family, network president Paul Lee was promoted to president of the ABC Entertainment Group in July 2010.[34]

In January 2014, ABC Family launched its TV Everywhere service Watch ABC Family, which allows subscribers to the channel on participating television providers to stream programming from ABC Family live or on-demand from a website or mobile app.[38]

2016: Freeform[edit]

In December 2014, Variety reported that ABC Family executives were proposing a re-launch of the network that would occur in 2015 at the earliest, including the expansion of programming that appeals more toward a millennial-skewing audience—as opposed to families or teenagers, as well as adopting a new brand, among the options.[39] During the channel's 2015–16 upfront presentation on April 14, 2015, ABC Family executives announced that it would establish a focus on a demographic it referred to as "becomers"; which includes teenagers and young adults between the ages of 14 and 34. ABC Family president Tom Ascheim explained that "The most important question that young people ask themselves as they're going from high school to their thirties is, 'Who am I becoming?' So we call the life stage 'becoming' and the people going through it Becomers".[40][41][42]

On October 6, 2015, Disney–ABC Television Group announced that ABC Family would re-brand as Freeform. Ascheim explained that the new name was meant to represent how "becomers" are in the "formation" of their lives, and reflect a participatory experience for viewers across multiple platforms. The new name – which was chosen among 3,000 proposals with some initial consideration of retaining "ABC" in the name – was necessitated after an audience survey that sampled opinions of regular viewers of ABC Family as well those who watched the channel on an infrequent basis. The testing revealed that although regular viewers understood the network's youth-skewing concept, non-frequent viewers perceived the channel as being more of a "wholesome" family-oriented network.[40][43] While it was rumored that the sale of the network from IFE to Fox contained a stipulation that the channel must always contain the name "Family", regardless of its owner (as supported by the failed proposal to re-launch as "XYZ"), Ascheim clarified that this was merely an urban legend.[26][27]

The rebranding to Freeform formally occurred on January 12, 2016, coinciding with the mid-season premiere of Pretty Little Liars's sixth season, and the series premiere of Shadowhunters—a new fantasy series adapted from young adult novel series The Mortal Instruments.[40][7] As Freeform, the channel plans to double the amount of original programming on its schedule through 2020; however, despite firmly focusing on its specified target audience, Freeform will continue to carry much of the existing programming it aired beforehand under the ABC Family brand, including family-oriented series and films, its weekday airings of The 700 Club, and the "25 Days of Christmas" and "13 Days of Halloween" blocks.[26][27][43]


Outside of primetime, Freeform currently offers a slate of mostly reruns of contemporary comedy and drama series, such as Reba, The Middle, Last Man Standing, and Gilmore Girls.

The channel also produces some original programming, which (as of September 2015) currently include shows such as Pretty Little Liars, The Fosters, Switched at Birth, Stitchers, Kevin from Work, Young & Hungry, and Baby Daddy. Until the debuts of Melissa & Joey (which ran from 2010 to 2015), and Baby Daddy (which bowed in 2012), Freeform had long faced minimal success with its original sitcoms, with its drama series often outlasting its comedies.

Freeform airs its original drama series on Monday and/or Tuesday nights, and since 2016, has aired its comedy series on Wednesdays. The channel airs first-run episodes of its original series mainly between January and August, with films generally airing in their place during primetime on the aforementioned nights from September to December (the only exception since 2010, have been annual Halloween episodes of Pretty Little Liars that air as part of the "13 Nights of Halloween" in October as well as the debut of the first third of season one of Ravenswood in October 2013); the first 10 episodes (or as few as eight for new series) of each season of its original programs air consecutively, the season's remaining episodes are broadcast following a hiatus of four to six months. ABC Family typically only reruns episodes of its original series in a marathon that airs prior to a season premiere, mid-season or season finale, or other special occasion, though the channel does air encore presentations of its shows that typically preempt programs that normally air at 7:00 and 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time during the rest of the week on these nights (with the previous week's episode airing in the former timeslot prior to the newest episode and a same-night encore of the newest episode on the evening of an episode premiere in the latter timeslot).

The channel also airs religious programming, a remnant from the network's CBN ownership, including daily broadcasts of The 700 Club and The 700 Club Interactive, as well as ministry programs from Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, James Robison, Joseph Prince, Doug Batchelor, David Jeremiah, and Zola Levitt; aside from the 700 Club and 700 Club Interactive airings, most of the religious programs carried by ABC Family generally air weekdays between 5:00 to 7:00 a.m., and Sundays from 5:30 to 7:00 and 12:00 to 1:30 a.m. Eastern Time.

Freeform is one of only two Disney-owned cable channels in the U.S. (ESPN Classic being the other) to air infomercials and one of the only cable channels to air informercials before 2:30 a.m. Eastern Time; paid programming airs on the channel from 2:00 to 7:00 a.m. Mondays through Saturdays, and 12:00 to 7:00 a.m. on Sundays (all times Eastern). The paid programming time includes the aforementioned religious programs, whose time slots were paid for by the ministries which produce the programs.


Freeform airs movies in primetime on Thursday and Friday nights (and if no original series are scheduled, Mondays, Tuesdays and/or Wednesdays as well), along with a day-long schedule of films on weekends from as early as 7:00 a.m. (sometimes later, such as around 7:30 or 8:00 a.m.) to as late as 2:00 a.m. Eastern Time on Saturdays and 12:00 a.m. Eastern on Sundays. Movies airing on the channel are targeted at various audiences – from pre-teens, to families, to teenagers and adults – with a large amount of films airing on ABC Family being distributed by corporate sister Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, 20th Century Fox (owned by 21st Century Fox, which was created through the split of the channel's former parent company News Corporation in 2013) and Warner Bros. Entertainment.

Freeform has also purchased the cable television rights to many film series, such as the Harry Potter series (which ABC and Disney Channel also hold rights to), 2004's A Cinderella Story (and its made-for-DVD spinoffs Another Cinderella Story and A Cinderella Story: Once Upon a Song) and most recently the Legally Blonde film series (after securing rights to the 2009 made-for-DVD release Legally Blondes). From 1998 (as Fox Family) to 2002, ABC Family also secured cable rights to several films starring Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen (this was around the time the network aired their short-lived ABC sitcom Two of a Kind, but just prior to carrying Full House).

The channel also produces its own original made-for-TV movies (targeting a slightly older audience than those aired by sister network Disney Channel); some of ABC Family's most popular original movies include Night of the Twisters (the channel's first original movie, which premiered in 1996 during its existence as The Family Channel), Holiday in Handcuffs, the Au Pair trilogy, My Fake Fiance, and Cyberbully. ABC Family has also recently been generating high levels of viewers with its weekend movie events; the "Harry Potter Weekend" block in July 2009 generated some of the highest levels of viewers for its weekend events for the year to date. ABC Family's airing of The Hunger Games on October 10, 2014 was one of the channel's most watched telecasts for a single film, being seen by nearly 1.9 million viewers.

Freeform is also becoming known for airing previews of upcoming movies, as it has done for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Hairspray and Stardust.[44] Since the rebranding Freeform has started airing some popular Disney Channel Original Movies (such as High School Musical).


From 2000 to 2001, Fox Family aired a weekly Major League Baseball game on Thursday nights during the league's regular season (a game that had previously aired nationwide on Fox Sports Net from 1997 to 1999), as well as select Division Series games. As part of its purchase of Fox Family, in addition to the postseason games, Disney acquired the MLB cable television rights that were also held by Fox Family's then-sister channel FX.[24] Beginning with the 2002 MLB season, ESPN assumed the production responsibilities for these games, although they continued to air on ABC Family for the time being, before moving to ESPN proper the following year. Division Series games were also simulcast on local broadcast television stations in the participating teams' markets.[45]

Programming blocks[edit]

Current programming blocks[edit]

  • 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[edit]

  • 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 of Scariest 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[edit]

  • 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.[46] 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).

International versions[edit]

ABC Spark (Canada)[edit]

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.[47] 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.[48]

The ABC Spark name was purposefully chosen to avoid conflicts with the unrelated service Family Channel—which, until January 2016, was part of a licensing agreement with Disney Channels Worldwide that gave it local rights to the programming library of the Disney Channel, Disney Junior, and Disney XD brands. In April 2015, Disney announced that Corus would take over Canadian rights to the networks' programming library: as a result, new Canadian Disney Channel, Disney Junior, and Disney XD networks launched as sisters to ABC Spark.[49][50]

With the announcement that ABC Family would rebrand as Freeform, it is unknown whether the Canadian service will follow suit.

The Family Channel/Challenge (U.K.)[edit]

In 1993, International Family Entertainment, in partnership with Flextech, launched an international version of The Family Channel in the United Kingdom,[51][52] 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,[53] giving that company full control of the channel.[54] 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 such as 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.[55] 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 thought 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.[26][27][43]

Network slogans[edit]

  • "Stay with Us, We're CBN" (1977–85; as CBN Satellite Service and CBN Cable Network)[56]
  • "Just Watch Us" (1985–88; as CBN Cable Network)[57]
  • "Families are Moving to CBN" (1986; as CBN Cable Network; used concurrently with "Just Watch Us")[58]
  • "Together, We're Family" (1988–91; as The CBN Family Channel and The Family Channel)[59]
  • "The Greatest in the Family" (1991–95; as The Family Channel)
  • "There's Nothing Stronger" (1995–96)[60]
  • "Just Watch Us Now" (1996–98)[61]
  • "You Belong" (1998–2000; as Fox Family)
  • "It's Electric" (2000–01; as Fox Family)
  • "It's All About You!" (2001–03; as ABC Family)
  • "Everything You Want to Know from A to Z" (2003–06; as ABC Family)
  • "A New Kind of Family" (2006–16; as ABC Family)
  • "Become With Us" (2016–present)


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  2. ^ a b Richard Katz (July 10, 1998). "Fox Family squeezes 'Club' in youthful sked". Variety (Cahners Business Information). Retrieved August 13, 2009. 
  3. ^ a b "News Corp. and Haim Saban Reach Agreement to Sell Fox Family Worldwide to Disney for $5.3 Billion". Saban Entertainment. July 23, 2001. Archived from the original on February 2, 2009. Retrieved February 19, 2009. 
  4. ^ a b Carl DiOrio (October 24, 2001). "Fox Family costs Mouse less cheese in final deal". Variety (Reed Business Information). Retrieved August 13, 2009. 
  5. ^ Elizabeth Wagmeister (October 6, 2015). "ABC Family to Rebrand Network ‘Freeform’ in January". Variety (Penske Media Corporation). Retrieved October 6, 2015. 
  6. ^ David Bauder (October 6, 2015). "ABC Family Changing Name To Freeform". TVNewsCheck. NewsCheck Media. Associated Press. Retrieved October 6, 2015. 
  7. ^ a b Petski, Denise (December 10, 2015). "ABC Family Name-Change To Coincide With 'Pretty Little Liars' & 'Shadowhunters' Premieres". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved December 11, 2015. 
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External links[edit]