Freeform Is Branching Out Into Late Night and Short-Form Content

New Marvel series highlights former ABC Family's upfront

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The network formerly known as ABC Family not only has a new name, having relaunched in January as Freeform, it also has plans to branch out into late night and make a major push into short-form content.

Prior to tonight's upfront presentation at New York's Spring Studios, the network announced its upcoming slate, with returning hits Pretty Little Liars, Baby Daddy and Young & Hungry joined by new content aimed at Freeform's target audience: women ages 14 to 34, or "becomers," as the network calls them.

"As we continue to evolve and deliver on our brand promise, it's important that we put our audience at the center of everything we do and connect with them in all the places they are and in the ways they prefer," said Freeform president Tom Ascheim in a statement.

That includes two new dramas debuting on Freeform this summer: the '80s summer camp horror series Dead of Summer (premiering June 28) from Once Upon a Time creators Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, and soap Guilt (June 13) about a woman who moves from Boston to London to help defend her sister, the prime suspect in her roommate's murder. Docuseries Cheer Squad (Aug. 22) chronicles one of the country's top all-star cheerleading teams.

Arriving next year are the premieres of sci-fi series Beyond, in which a man awakens from a 12-year coma with new abilities, and unscripted series The Letter, in which four friends anonymously write each other suggestions about how to improve their lives.

Freeform also has picked up its first Marvel series, Marvel's Cloak and Dagger, which is based on comic-book teen superheroes Tandy Bowen and Tyrone Johnson who fall in love as they come grips with their new powers (he can engulf others in darkness; she can emit daggers of light). The network ordered a second series from Pretty Little Liars executive producer I. Marlene King, Famous is Love, about a college student whose life is upended when she lands the lead in a blockbuster film.

The network is getting into business with Cosmopolitan editor in chief Joanna Coles, ordering a pilot inspired by her life called Issues, which Coles will executive produce.

Meanwhile, Freeform is developing its first late-night talk show, Later Bitches, from Daily Show producers Jennifer Flanz and Elisa Terrell. The network describes the show as a late-night talk version of Sex and the City. A weekly late-night series, Alice, will focus on short-form content.

But Freeform's short-form plans aren't limited to late night; the network has ordered several short-form series for its linear, digital and social platforms. Those shows include Rio Squad (about female athletes preparing for the Olympics), My Boyfriend is a Robot (the adventures of a girl and her less than human boyfriend) and Open Roads (looking at the nonprofit organization that provides filmmaking wilderness camps for high school students).

Looking ahead to summer 2017, Freeform will hold a live festival called Freeform Fest, which celebrates all forms of entertainment, art and fashion.

The network, which was No. 1 among women ages 18 to 34 for the first time last year, changed names in January after what Ascheim called "cognitive dissonance" between the word "Family" in its name and its edgy teen and young-adult dramas. Freeform, selected from 3,000 options, speaks more to the network's target audience.

At its upfront presentation, Ascheim will announce that the new name is resonating with viewers. The network has released a new spot to celebrate the rebranding:

@jasonlynch Jason Lynch is TV/Media Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.
Publish date: April 7, 2016 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT