For years ABC Family has languished in developmentally challenged hell. There's just no way around it. They have. Talk to anyone who deals with the network at all, and you'll hear the same thing repeated over and over and over. I have talked to those people. Agents. Managers. Executives. Actors. Writers. They all say the same exact thing (unless they had something to do with "My Fake Fiancee, or "Holiday in Handcuffs" of course), in the same exact frustrated tone, and it's not a coincidence.
"They have no idea what they're doing."
Now, that's not to say that the executives running the asylum don't have a plan. They do. It's just, it really has nothing to do with "Family." You talk to the execs at ABC "Family", and they want female driven projects. Exclusively. Things that "Mothers and daughters will watch together." Yet, they do still have family programming as well. Sound kind of hodgepodgy and confusing?
Welcome to dealing with ABC Family.
Years ago, ABC Family evolved from ABC buying (hopefully I'm getting this right) Fox Family. For some reason, they were not allowed to change the name from Family to...something else. I remember speaking to an executive years ago, and she was telling me how they "envisioned" ABC Family as being "ABC 2," not ABC Family. She was talking about "Family" like she was at a beach resort, and a 60 year old fat man in a Speedo was standing in front of her. I don't remember clearly what the deal was, but I think it had something to do with the cost of changing the name being in the millions, and they didn't want to spend the money, or something. I was sitting there thinking, "But, you're not ABC 2, you're ABC Family. Why not use the name, instead of fighting it, if you have to keep it?" As a guy with a business background, I walked out of that meeting feeling quite troubled. My agent felt I was "the kind of young writer they needed to be in business with," but i knew we had zero chance of ever doing anything with these folks. Fast forward to today, and ABC Family is STILL having the same issues. The same identity issues. The same branding issues. It's still the same hodgepodgy mess.
I'm going to go so far as to call ABC Family the biggest waste of a channel in the history of cable channels. There is so much potential there, yet year after year, this channel rots in the hands of people who seem unwilling--almost combative and bitter--about having to embrace 'Family'.
So, here's some free advice for ABC...whatever the hell they want to call it. So, here we are again, giving out free advice at angrywriter. Either get rid of 'Family' or embrace it. Years spent in the middle has done nothing to take advantage of the vast potential of the channel--and it just confuses viewers.
ABC Family? Cool. Do family stuff. Family related shows, family films, family reality. Be the FAMILY portal of the entertainment world. Don't half ass it. Embrace it. Own it. Dominate it. Advertisers will flock.
ABC 2? Cool. Do some interesting and exciting new programming. Air Lost marathons. Get outside the box. Become the new destination for different. Advertisers will flock.
Right now, ABC Family has no idea what it (really) wants to be, and what it's trying to be is Lifetime 2. Hey, that works, but not as a FAMILY channel. You see, FAMILY makes people think everyone is included in the programming circle, not just the women. Men are confused. Why am I watching a family channel, but I'm watching a bunch of Kotex commercials. At least I'm learning more about panty liners. Thanks!
Best of luck ABC Family folks. The rest of us will be here, waiting for the next new marketing/branding push that will fail. Because, until you get out of the messy middle, this is what you'll be. A network that, "has no idea what they're doing."