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Freeform (US)

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To cut the cord, or not cut the cord? … That is the question. For millions of people around the world, this question was something of a no-brainer. But that has not been the case for everyone. There are just as many people who have been apprehensive about leaving the past behind. And, honestly, I can’t say that I blame them.

There are plenty of comforts and conveniences to a traditional cable that you just can’t get from the major streaming services out there like Netflix and Hulu. Watching a show live when it actually airs is something that I personally miss. You just can’t do that on Netflix or Hulu (unless you get Hulu’s live TV plan, but that’s a whole different story).

The main problem people tend to most frequently cite when it comes to traditional cable is the price. To be fair, it can be rather expensive. Even the most basic cable plan is going to run you somewhere around 60 or 70 bucks a month. One of the main appeals to using premium streaming services, at least when they first came out, was the fact that they were a much more affordable alternative to cable. That is until every single network and production company had to make their own streaming platform.

Nowadays, with all of the options that there and the fact that each streaming site has its own exclusive original content that can’t be viewed anywhere else. Between Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, NBC’s Peacock, Disney Plus, and Amazon Prime Video (each at around $10 a pop), if you want to be able to watch everything, you are going to end up paying at least $70 a month, probably more. So, the affordability argument for using premium streaming services over traditional cable doesn’t quite work the same anymore.

Given that, perhaps OTT (Over The Top) cable makes more sense in 2021 than one would initially assume. At the end of the day, though, I think it is all just a matter of personal preference. Some people see OTT cable as a necessity … especially those of us who like our sports. Others are just as happy to binge whatever Netflix and Hulu happen to have available at the time. I’m not here to tell you that one way of watching TV and movies is better than another. I am here, however, to tell you whether Freeform deserves its spot on the list of the best movie and TV streaming sites on the web.

Freeform is a popular American cable TV network, especially with teenagers and young adults. As a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company, Freeform broadcasts content that is sometimes meant to target young women, aged 14 to 34. This demographic is referred to by the network as “The Becomers,” an alternate identifier for the group of viewers that would otherwise be called “Millennials.” The majority of what Freeform airs are off-network syndicated reruns, original series, made for TV movies, and feature films.

Although their movie streaming site is relatively new, the network has been around for quite a while, even though they have gone by different names. Freeform has also been known as The Family Channel. Before that, it was CBN Satellite Service, a religious channel, believe it or not. Few streaming services have as rich a history as Freeform, so, let’s dive right in, shall we?

History

Freeform’s history dates all the way back to 1977 when it originally aired as the CBN Satellite Service, a part of Pat Robinson’s Christian Broadcasting Network. The network was one of the first in the world to broadcast via satellite signal. For several years, the network aired only Christian programming. This remained the case until 1981 when they underwent their first major makeover.

On September 1st, 1981, the CBN Satellite Service became the CBN Cable Network and began airing programming of a more secular nature. The skew was still towards family-friendly entertainment, though, and many programs contained religious themes. The network also did retain a few Christian programs, such as those that starred televangelists. Aside from that the CBN Cable Network became known for playing traditional family programming like You Bet Your Life (starring Groucho Marx­), The Many Loves of Dobie Gills, and I Married Joan. Some people attribute this lineup as the main inspiration for the famous Nick at Night block of nostalgia on Nickelodeon.

On the 1st of January 1988, CBN officially incorporated the word “family” in their network name, becoming the CBN Family Channel. Along with this, the network had become too profitable to continue filing as a nonprofit. That year, CBN officially become a for-profit corporation, International Family Entertainment.

Then, briefly, CBN Family became known as Fox Family when International Family Entertainment put the channel up for sale and News Corporation put an undeniable offer up for it. The company’s goal was to transform the Family Channel into a network that could compete with cable channels like Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network, which would take advantage of the rich cartoon library of Fox Kids Worldwide. This is when the network really started to take off.

Then came the sale to the Walt Disney Company in 2001 (finally!). For a whopping $2.9 in cash, Disney bought The Family Channel from Fox. This was one small acquisition, though, of a serious consolidation that was happening in the cable TV industry at the time, giving Disney a huge share of the world’s cable networks and entertainment assets (which continues to grow to this day). At any rate, Disney chose to slap the ABC brand over their family channel acquisition, resulting in ABC Family.

Although still a part of Disney, in 2014 ABC Family announced that it would be rebranded to Freeform, moving away from strictly family programming to attract a new audience, the aforementioned “becomers.” And the network has remained known as Freeform to this day. Who knows, though, what Freeform will be known as (or who will own it)  in a few years from now!

Design

Freeform offers a sleek and user-friendly design. Anyone even vaguely familiar with any of the big-name streaming services will have no problem at all figuring out how to navigate and use Freeform. At the top of the page, you’ll find a site menu bar, making for easy and simple navigation to every corner of the site. Below that, you’ll find a giant banner of featured titles. And below that, simply browse by category and genre. It doesn’t get any more straightforward than this!

Content and Features

Freeform has plenty of classic movies, new original shows, and old made for TV films as well. Plus, you can watch live TV with Freeform, tuning into your favorite shows as they air if you so desire. Or, of course, you can stream all of your Freeform faves on-demand. Enjoy classic movies like Jumanji or The Hunger Games (the entire series), or watch newer original programming, such as Kal Penn Approves this Message, Love in the Time of Corona, and Grown-ish.

If you already have a traditional cable provider, I don’t see any reason why you wouldn’t be taking advantage of every network streaming site, Freeform included!

Mobile and Desktop Experience

In addition to offering a professional and intuitive desktop site, Freeform also has an excellent mobile app. Available on Android and iOS devices, this is one of the nicest streaming apps that I have had the pleasure of using – at least when it comes to cable channel streaming apps. Apparently, I am not alone in loving the Freeform app either. On the Apple App Store, the Freeform streaming app has an average user rating of 4.7 (out of 5). The mobile experience of Freeform is smooth, user-friendly, and dynamic.

Pricing and Plans

The one big downer for me brings us back to the cord-cutting debate. Unfortunately, you need to have a cable provider in order to stream movies and TV shows on Freeform. There is no way to sign up as a Freeform subscriber in order to just be able to stream Freeform content. However, if you already have a cable provider, Freeform is going to be an incredible addition to your growing list of services.

Likes & Hates:
Great site and app design
Plenty of great content, classic titles
Lots of one-of-a-kind original content
Shows and movies somewhat limited in scope (YA)
Need cable provider to use