FREEFORM CONSULTANT REPORT (MAY 2019)
As an undergraduate media studies minor, I took a course called media trends and forecasting. I was assigned to research and analyze a media company, as well as gather my own data to support my suggestions for improvement and longevity. This report was to be written directly to the company but was never formally requested by or shared with the company in question.
I grew up on ABC Family. From Pretty Little Liars to So Little Time, I was always watching. The channel was with me from my adolescence to my early adulthood, and I watched it transform its branding to Freeform in 2016. When the channel turned to Freeform, it seemed a little abrupt and was confusing for someone like me who had been watching for so long. I found myself wondering, what does Freeform even mean? I only got a grasp of what the idea was from commercials they played about the re-branding. It seemed like more than just a re-branding to me, but I never thought much into it.
So for my assignment, I chose to take a look at my long-loved channel to see what they were doing right, but also where they've gone wrong. I saw a lot of good, but also understood there was an identity crisis for Freeform that needed to be addressed in various capacities.
A YEAR LATER...
My major findings in 2019 were that the content needed a refresh, Freeform needed to increase their political footprint, and their streaming distribution tactics needed to be ramped up. There was a lot of talk about what Freeform meant and how it was supposed to connect with their audiences, but the things they were doing to achieve that was not on par with the actual goals they were setting. In the past year, there has been a lot of change and progress toward being successful in the long-run.
Party Of Five
The show is a reboot, but comes off very different than the original show and takes a new, focused lens to that family dynamic. It focuses on a family of Latinx immigrants. It's something that's happening right now in our country and to show how these things are impacting younger people is a huge win in increasing Freeform's political footprint.
Everything's Gonna Be Okay
This show is both aired on Freeform and FX to try and drive more viewers to Freeform since the audience demographic crosses over. It focuses on a non-traditional family who undergoes grief together but also showcases a character with autism. Having this diversity portrayed on screen is refreshing and helps push Freeform's library in the direction they need.
"Navigating autism, budding sexuality, consent, parenthood, adolescence, family and grief, the heartfelt comedy will follow this imperfect family as they discover the importance of finding happiness in the middle of really difficult moments, one awkward conversation at a time.
- Andreeva, Deadline
Motherland: Fort Salem
This show is another original featuring an alternative universe for Freeform (like Siren). But this time, Motherland takes place in a world where witches struck a deal with the government to end their persecution 300 years ago. Women are in power. According to Deadline, the show dives into "what female sexuality looks like away from the patriarchy because it’s a matriarchal society in the show." This is yet another refreshing show to add to Freeform's library and shows progression.
Freeform and FX Working Together
As mentioned before, Freeform has partnered with FX to show Everything's Gonna Be Okay on both channels to help push viewership for Freeform's other content. This is a smart tactic in using the Walt Disney connect to show people that Freeform is not the same as it used to be. It's not just a teen drama or comedy. These programs have depth and they are progressive showing the realities of life for the 14-34 demographic. Since the two channels have some crossover in audience demographic, it is a great tactic.
"With its offbeat sensibility, Everything’s Gonna Be Okay is considered close in tone to some FX series, so Freeform brass are likely hoping to recruit new viewers by exposing the show to FX audiences.
- Andreeva, Deadline
Freeform has been known to premiere shows early on Hulu and have the channel's content on Hulu instead of Disney owned Disney+. This year they started acquiring the rights to show feature films along with Hulu in partnership. This is allowing them to gain content that they believe appeals to their audience and drive viewers to watch the channel based on these selections bringing them in.
At this year's Winter TCA's, Freeform President Tom Ascheim expressed his confidence in Freeform saying it was in "great shape" for the years ahead, according to Deadline reporter Peter White. These new pushes in programming along with distribution tactics are not only pushing them toward reaching those goals, but are also helping show a future of prosperity if they keep it up.
“As the young adult brand for the ever more impressive Walt Disney Company, we have a clear lane and focused programming strategy.
- Tom Ascheim
President Tom Ascheim's Exit
But as confidently as Ascheim spoke at the Winter TCA's, he recently announced his exit from the channel to pursue a role with Turner working with Cartoon Network and Adult Swim. Ascheim has seen Freeform through its rebranding and beyond and has been very instrumental in the groundwork laid for Freeform's future. I wrote a blog post reflecting on his exit and what I think is to come for Freeform. But from what I see, there's a bright future ahead.