Deconstruct: Freeform

By 100m
October 30, 2015
Reading Time: 2 minutes
Filed under Naming

Deconstruct is a propaganda venture from A Hundred Monkeys in which we perform close readings of new names belonging to companies with large legal teams.

Freeform … free to take whatever shape feels right, free to push beyond the expected. Free to get from point A to point B in a line that’s nowhere near straight …. this is where we break free.”

ABC Family promotional video

In January, after fourteen years as ABC Family, the channel will change its name to Freeform. The change comes as the channel, which started in 1977 as an organ of televangelist Pat Robertson’s ministry, is facing an identity crisis. Lately, the channel has faced criticism for its racier shows and incomprehension from would-be viewers who can’t figure out what its focus is supposed to be. Are vérité college dramas family programming? What about vampires? The awful “family” moniker had to go.

But what’s Freeform all about? By way of further explanation, channel reps said the new name “reflects our ongoing priority to super-serve Becomers, fans on that epic adventure of becoming an adult—from first kiss to first kid!”

When your press release can’t fit any more jargon, the next logical step is to make up your own. Freeform’s vaguely-defined target audience is getting an equally vague name. It’s painfully clear that ABC identified their suffix as the problem…and then ran the other way.

Here is a Google image search result for ‘freeform,’ because what else do we really have to go on at this point?

The result? A name that won’t pigeonhole the channel. They’ll never again have to face charges of hypocrisy, for one thing. But neither will Omnicorp. While a name doesn’t have to draw a circle around what you do, the best ones hint at it. Freeform doesn’t, and in the world of TV, with 500 channels and goldfish-sized attention spans, this lack of differentiation doesn’t augur well.

Honestly, the phrase “freeform TV” makes us think public access — which is not without its merits. It’s just not the territory an ABC subsidiary wants to own. We can empathize with feeling boxed in, but be careful what you wish for. Freeform is a name that makes room for anything and everything, but says nothing.