Follow TV Tropes


Creator / Freeform

Go To

A cable TV channel owned by The Walt Disney Company. It started in 1977 as the CBN Satellite Network, then CBN Cable Network ("CBN" standing for "Christian Broadcasting Network"), owned by controversial right-wing evangelist Pat Robertson. When it started as CBN Satellite, it originally focused exclusively on religous programming, but when it was rebranded as CBN Cable, it began to be modeled after the over-the-air independent stations CBN also owned at the time; this resulted in a mix of religious shows and secular, family-friendly programming, including older reruns and some original shows. In 1988, the channel was renamed as The CBN Family Channel; two years later it was spun off and the name was changed to The Family Channel note , as the channel had begun to make too much money for non-profit CBN to keep it around. Through all the CBN/Family Channel years, though, outside of the hours devoted to The 700 Club and its surrounding programming it was probably known more for being the place your grandfather got his fix of Westerns with Gunsmoke, The Big Valley, and Bonanza, or where obscure Game Shows got rerun (and in turn, sometimes attracted a cult following). Outside of those shows, also in the mix were reruns of family-oriented sitcoms and drama, plus cartoons. In the early 1990s, the network started original programming such as Big Brother Jake (think Charles in Charge, minus the hijinks of teenage hormones), and the television version of Maniac Mansion, which owing to where it aired was severely Bowdlerised. Soon, though, most of the network's original efforts devolved to the usual low budget family game shows found on cable at that time, including the second iteration of Shop 'Til You Drop.


The Family Channel, which was by this point co-owned with the library of MTM Enterprises, was bought by Fox in 1997, and renamed as the Fox Family Channel (or often just Fox Family) the next year, and became primarily a hub for programming from Fox Kids and Saban Entertainment, and programming imported from or co-produced with Teletoon. The early look of the network, with the "twister" logo, was modelled after Canada's YTV, including an equivalent to YTV's The Zone, known as The Basement; other blocks included Captain Kangaroo's Treasure House (named after and featuring Saban's Captain Kangaroo revival). The channel, along with Fox Kids, was sold to Disney in 2001 because not only did Fox have no idea what to do with a network devoted to families but the network struggled in ratings- they needed to sell it to avoid further money drainage. This was thanks to infighting between Fox and Saban over who ran the network, mediocre reaction to their new programming (often seen as their attempt to be a cut-rate Nickelodeon), a mass exodus of older viewers who loved the Westerns and game shows they had before, and the restrictions of their contract for the purchase of the network. An attempt to create two spin-off channels with sex-segregated children's programming, the Boyz & Girlz Channels, also failed because of a lack of interest and viewers questioning excluding one gender from an entire channel (though it could be said that these days, the Disney Channel and Disney XD have the near-same concept). Even adding Major League Baseball coverage (shared with FX) that had previously aired on Fox SportsNet didn't help.


That same year, the channel's name became ABC Family, the Fox Kids block met its end the next year, and its programming moved to ABC Family (and Toon Disney) as "Jetix" (the name was introduced in 2004; previous to that the programming had aired on ABCF under the internal name of there "ABC Family Action Block"). The early ABC years were spent converting the network to a place to re-air ABC programs, which was botched by the network realizing that only programs from their internal studio could get a second ABC Family run, with other outside producers heavily objecting to the arrangement. By 2005, it had seemed to become a place for cheap reality programming and non-stop reruns of The Bachelor.

Disney planned to revamp the channel into a young-adult-aimed channel named "XYZ," but these plans were scrappednote . The network also has to give up a full day of programming in late January so Robertson can air his annual CBN Telethon, but these days the only thing that's lost is the usual Sunday movie marathon.

The channel eventually abused a loophole and changed their slogan to "A new kind of family". It was pretty much ABC Family's way of saying that they may have to keep "Family" in their name, but that won't stop them from becoming a not-so-family-friendly channel. From then on, the channel began airing programs with sexual content and other edgy material you wouldn't normally associate with a network with "Family" in the name. Eventually, ABC Family also got actual original programming too, mainly targeting young women. The end result is something akin to being the [adult swim] to Disney Channel... or the channel itself being "Teen Disney", the channel's answer to TeenNick (Minus the old Disney shows in it).

In March 2012, the network gained a Canadian counterpart in ABC Spark, which replaced Dusk (formally, a horror film network called Scream). ABC Spark is bound by none of Robertson's requirements, and outside of some programs already claimed by other channels (like Pretty Little Liars, which was one of MuchMusic's stalwart shows), carries most of ABC Family's original shows, and even rerun shows.

2015 is notable for bringing in a series of revolutionary events. Their original show The Fosters gained some extra buzz for boasting what has been said to be the youngest same sex kiss in television history. A few months later, it started airing its' first Reality Show, Becoming Us, about a teen couple dealing with both their fathers transitioning.

Finally, on October 6th, ABC Family management confirmed that the network would be renamed once again, to Freeform. The new name is an attempt to re-position the channel towards millen—. er, "becomers", and rid itself of any lingering presumption of wholesomeness implied by the use of the word "Family"; a programming strategy that led to ABC Family being targeted regularly by moral guardians and viewers who felt there was severe brand dissonance. This move also debunked a prior rumor that a contractual obligation from network founder Pat Robertson was the reason the "Family" name was kept on the channel. (Sources, such as James B. Stewart's Disney War, merely said that the name "Family" was written into previous contracts with cable companies.) However, the network will still be required to air The 700 Club three times on weekdays. The new branding launched on January 12, 2016 to coincide with the premiere of Shadowhunters.

The Japanese counterpart of the channel was DLife, which emphasizes the Disney lifestyle aspect to an older audience. However, Dlife was shut down in March 2020.

Freeform is still contractually obligated to air The 700 Club. They do their damned best to make sure nobody watches it and to make everyone know they do not stand behind anything Pat Robertson et al. have to say: they bury the show at 10AM, 11PM, and 3AMnote , airs commercials before it (after the closing credits of the previous show), shows a very snarky disclaimer which encourages viewers to watch Freeform programming on other legit sources while completely disavowing the views expressed by the program, and remove all Freeform branding from the screen during the show's airtime. Considering the very controversial views presented by Robertson's crew and 700's socially conservative demographic directly clashing with the socially progressive one Freeform aims for, the way the network screws it over is not that surprising. Despite the fact that 700 also airs on local stations and religious network TBN, CBN refuses to terminate Freeform's contract to air the show, much to the chagrin of Disney.

After an attempt by bankers to have Disney sell the network fell flat, Disney acquired 21st Century Fox, which gave them ownership of FX Networks. With Freeform once again reunified with a former corporate sibling, Freeform began airing shows (namely repeats of Fox animated programs such as The Simpsons and Family Guy, among others) and movies shared with FX. This has led some to suggest Disney was positioning Freeform as "FX FOR YOUNG ADULTS", though Disney hasn't commented on Freeform's fate as of yet.

Original shows:

Alternative Title(s): ABC Family, Fox Family


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: