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ABC Family Is Just the Latest Cable Network to Rebrand Itself With a New Name

Why these 8 made the big switch

ABC Family will call itself Freeform to better match its programming.

ABC Family will change its name to Freeform in January because to be free is to be liberated, to be unbound, to be unadulterated. But in this case, it won't be truly free since Freeform will still be part of a basic cable or satellite package.

But we digress.

Viewers will find the same shows, just a new name that better fits the network's programming strategy with series such as the wildly popular Pretty Little Liars, Switched at Birth, and Baby Daddy. (Less family, more free.) The network says the new name "speaks to the mindset and attitude of what the channel has defined as Becomers," a 69 million-strong block of younger millenials with spending power in the trillions, Disney figures.

ABC Family got its start in 1977 as the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN). It was renamed the Family Channel in 1990 and Fox Family Channel when News Corp. acquired it in 1998. Fox sold to Disney in 2001, when it became known as ABC Family. And that got us wondering about other cable network rebrands. Here are seven other recent relaunches:

  • On Jan. 1, CBS changed the name of TV Guide Network to Pop. Gone was the on-screen guide, replaced by original programming like Schitt's Creek, reruns of Dawson's Creek, and prime-time airings of daytime's Days of Our Lives.
  • In August 2013, Speed Channel became Fox Sports 1. At the same time, Fuel TV became Fox Sports 2, aligning the 21st Century Fox channels with the Fox Sports brand.
  • On Jan. 2, 2012, NBC replaced Versus (previously known as OLN) with NBCSN. And with that, the NBCU network began to make a run at Disney's ESPN.
  • In March 2012, Disney shuttered Soapnet and replaced it with Disney Junior, which had been a programming block on the main Disney Channel.
  • On Jan. 1, 2011, Discovery Health became OWN, Oprah Winfrey's very own TV network.
  • On Jan. 28, 2008, the capricious Discovery Times channel became the crime-focused Investigation Discovery, or ID.
  • On Jan. 1 2008, Turner's CourtTV became truTV, but trial coverage continued until June 2009.

And we might see yet another rebrand in the coming months. A+E Networks may replace its H2 network with the Vice channel. A+E bought a minority stake in Vice in August 2014.

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