Freeform (formerly ABC Family) is an American basic cable and satellite television channel. The channel is owned by ABC Family Worldwide Inc., a subsidiary of the Disney–ABC Television Group division of The Walt Disney Company. It broadcasts Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments, the TV series adaptation of Cassandra Clare's best-selling book series The Mortal Instruments.
The network was founded and launched in 1977 as the CBN Satellite Service, an extension of televangelist Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) with a focus 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 in September 1981. Its carriage grew to one million homes by that year. 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 CBN banner without endangering CBN's non-profit status. CBN spun it off to a new company called International Family Entertainment Inc., and the name was changed to simply The Family Channel on September 15, 1990 (although this name was used in on-air promotions while the channel was still under CBN ownership).
In 1997, International Family Entertainment put The Family Channel up for sale. News Corporation entered into discussions to purchase a stake in The Family Channel with International Family Entertainment as a partner, in order to use the channel to carry the library of children's programs that News Corporation had owned through television production company Saban Entertainment. That June, IFE was purchased by Fox Kids Worldwide Inc., a joint venture between News Corporation and Saban Entertainment, which was renamed in turn to Fox Family Worldwide Inc. The Family Channel was officially renamed Fox Family Channel on August 15, 1998. With the change in ownership, Fox Family's operations were also migrated from Virginia Beach, Virginia (which serves as the headquarters of the Christian Broadcasting Network) and integrated with the operations of some of News Corporation's other cable channels in Los Angeles.
Fox Family Worldwide Inc. was sold to The Walt Disney Company (which had previously purchased Capital Cities/ABC in February 1996, changing its corporate name to ABC, Inc.) on October 24, 2001; the sale to The Walt Disney Company included ownership of Saban Entertainment. The network was officially renamed ABC Family on November 10, 2001.
In August 2006, ABC Family introduced an all-new slogan ("A New Kind of Family") and visual style. In October 2007, ABC Family completely redesigned its website, giving it a more modernized appearance. The broadband player was also streamlined, adding more content including reruns of the channel's original series, as well as adding some Fox Kids programming that the channel still owns.
In 2007, the fantasy drama Kyle XY earned the highest viewership in the network's history. That record was later broken in 2008 by the series premiere of The Secret Life of the American Teenager; nearly three years later, the record was broken again with Switched at Birth premiering to 3.3 million viewers on June 6, 2011. Since then, ABC Family has launched more shows geared towards young adults (particularly females), including popular dramas such as Make It or Break It and The Lying Game, and comedies such as 10 Things I Hate About You, Melissa & Joey and Baby Daddy.
In July 2009, the network earned its best-ever ratings for the month of July in primetime and in total viewership due to returning series 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. On June 8, 2010, the debut of the original drama series Pretty Little Liars successfully broke series premiere ratings records for ABC Family, across all major viewing demographics of women and young people.
In a December 2014 article in Variety, reports suggested that ABC Family executives were proposing a reboot of the network that would occur in 2015, which may include a renaming of the channel, a redesigned graphics package (replacing the one in use since 2006) or an expansion of programming that appeals more toward a millennial-skewing audience, as opposed to families or teenagers. This was further confirmed and announced in 2015, and the rebrand took effect on January 12, 2016.
As of February 2015, ABC Family is available to approximately 94,406,000 pay television households (81.1% of households with at least one television set) in the United States.
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