Freeform Expanding Originals to Four Nights a Week in 2018 (Exclusive)

The goal is to have first-run originals from January through September, with Halloween and Christmas programming blocks airing in the final quarter.
Courtesy of ABC
Freeform's 'The Bold Type'

Nearly two years after rebranding as Freeform, the younger-skewing cable network is expanding its original programming footprint.

Beginning in January, the Disney-owned network will shift from two nights of originals to four in a bid to use its extensive film library to better launch scripted programming, with such movies as Harry Potter and Twilight serving as lead-ins and lead-outs. The push will entail doubling its number of pilot orders and adding 10 to 20 more hours of current originals than the network aired in 2017. The goal is to have first-run originals from January through September, with Halloween and Christmas programming blocks airing in the final quarter.

"We see it as an opportunity to be competitive," Freeform executive vp programming and development Karey Burke tells The Hollywood Reporter. "No other scripted cable channel has original programming at 8 p.m., and that is this network's strongest time period."

A new plan is necessary, as Freeform shed about 4 million subscribers in the past three years and saw its primetime viewership among 18- to 34-year-olds drop about 20 percent for the first half of the year. Fortunately, the summer brought breakout The Bold Type, which already has been renewed for two additional seasons (20 episodes).

The network also has added 10 more hours to third-year drama Shadowhunters and now has given an early 10-episode renewal to the comedy Alone Together ahead of its January premiere. The Lonely Island-produced series will be paired with Black-ish spinoff Grown-ish to launch a comedy night on Wednesdays.

Thursdays will focus on genre programming, starting Jan. 18 with season two of Tim Kring's sci-fi drama Beyond, leading to the March 29 debut of the mermaid drama Siren, with Marvel's Cloak and Dagger looking to pull in male viewers to the historically female-focused network. Mondays will be home to unscripted this spring, with Freeform picking up seven episodes of the Simon Lythgoe-produced Disney's Fairy Tale Weddings.

Says Burke, who with network president Tom Ascheim quietly re-upped with multiyear deals to remain at Freeform: "The creative community can come here, make the show they want, and we're going to put it on and keep it on."

This story appears in the Oct. 18 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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