Upfronts ’16: Freeform slate touts “open-mindedness”

Three months after rebranding itself from ABC Family to Freeform, the net has unveiled new docuseries, pilots and development projects across its linear and digital platforms. (Pictured: The Letter)
April 8, 2016

Three months after rebranding itself from ABC Family to Freeform, the network unveiled new docuseries, pilots and development projects across its linear and digital platforms at its Upfront event in New York on Thursday (April 7).

The network will also launch its first-ever original programming in the late night slot with Alice, a half-hour weekly variety-style platform set to showcase experimental short-form content. The program will be joined in the late night block by Later Bitches (w/t) from Omelette Bar Productions and True Entertainment. The after-hours 30-minute program will be hosted by a group of women and feature celebrity interviews, viral segments, lifestyle takeaway, debates and tell-all conversations alongside champagne cocktails. Long-time The Daily Show producers Jennifer Flanz and Elise Terrell will consult on the series.

“Freeform is a brand built for the fresh taste of a modern generation who value open-mindedness, fluidity, immediacy and who don’t like to be fenced-in,” said Freeform president Tom Ascheim in a statement. “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.”

Freeform is adding two non-fiction series to its 2016/17 programming slate, including Cheer Squad and the previously announced The Letter (pictured).

Produced by Corus Entertainment – which owns the ABC Spark network in Canada – Cheer Squad follows the Great White Sharks as they look to defend their two-time World Cheerleading Championship title while attempting to balance their lives outside of the gym. The network will launch the series on August 22 at 10 p.m. EST/PST.

Meanwhile, each episode of The Letter will showcase four friends as they anonymously draw names and write the selected person a constructive and honest letter that details what they believe needs to be altered in the reader for them to become better versions of themselves. The Sirens Media-produced series, which is expected to air in early 2017, will track each reader over a week as they attempt to follow the letter’s every suggestion on how to improve. Episodes will culminate in a “dramatic and emotionally charged” reveal.

The network is also developing unscripted short-form projects for its linear and digital platforms including the tentatively titled Rio Squad, a series of shorts in partnership with ESPNW featuring four female athletes who have dedicated their lives to being the best at their sport ahead of the Summer Olympic Games; Just Josh, a docuseries following professional dancer Josh Homer as he provides a crash course in dancing for special events; Open Roads, focused on the titular non-profit’s wilderness documentary camps for high school students; and finally Untitled Punam Patel Project, following the comedian as she tucks a celebrity into bed for an interview-based series.

Elsewhere, the Disney-ABC Television Group-owned network will also develop ‘Freeform Presents: Snapshots,’ which will feature two hour-long documentaries from ESPN Films and the producers of ’30 for 30.’ The films will offer an in-depth look at the most pivotal moments in pop culture over the last 20 years, while exploring how those events have been shaped by a mobile and connected population

About The Author
Managing editor with realscreen publication, an international print and online magazine that covers the non-fiction film and television industries. Darah is an award-winning journalist who has spent over two decades covering a wide range of issues from real estate and urban development to immigration, politics and human rights, primarily with The Vancouver Sun. Prior to joining realscreen, she was editor of Stream Daily, realscreen's sister publication covering the dynamic global digital video industry. She also served a stint as a war reporter in Afghanistan for television and print, and was a national business blogger with Yahoo Canada.