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MHHE008707The president of the ABC Family television network summed up a recent epiphany about the Millennial generation, that popular target of vast marketing efforts, with a clear and funny comment: “We looked up from our research,” he explained, “and said, ‘Oh golly, they’re turning 40’.” That is, the Millennials keep getting older, which means that another generational cohort must be coming up behind them, ready to check out the shows and advertising on channels that their parents let them watch.

ABC Family is one of those channels, but its name also signals its appeal to parents, and that’s never a recipe for appealing successfully to kids. Therefore, the network is undergoing a rebranding effort, in which it will become a network called Freeform. The new network will still air many of the shows that have supported the success of ABC Family, such as Pretty Little Liars and The Fosters, and the network plans to persist in successful marketing tactics like its “25 Days of Christmas” programming. However, the name and renewed vision for Freeform will reflect the more “fluid” approach that young viewers bring to their television watching habits.

In particular, studies suggest that young viewers, usually defined as those born since 1995, are unlikely to accept vast cable packages, filled with lots of channels they do not find interesting, but just a few channels that they really like. Instead, they seek “skinny” packages that contain only those offerings they actually want.

While researching who these consumers are and what they want, ABC Family executives also derived a view of the cohort that highlighted the developments they would undergo. Rather than strictly defining the target market by their age, Freeform hopes to define it according to the experiences they will be undergoing, now and in the future. With that view, it adopted the term “becomers” to refer to them—that is, young people who are undertaking experiences and making choices that will enable them to become who they want to be.

In turn, though much of the programming will remain acceptable to families, the family-oriented targeting will be less explicit and obvious. In turn, it hopes to maintain its ability to attract young viewers—the same ones that advertisers will pay the network to be able to reach.

Discussion Question:

  1. If you were to evaluate the attractiveness of the “becomers” segment, what sorts of criteria would you use, and what information would you need?

Source: Brooks Barnes, “Disney’s Family Channel Aims Younger than Millennials with New Name,” The New York Times, October 6, 2015

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