From its Halloween and Christmas movie marathons to its original teen-oriented programming, Freeform is a fun station for fans of all things Disney. It’s a beloved channel for those wanting something a little more grown-up than what Disney Channel has to offer. But do you know how to locate it on your DirecTV guide? Unlike other basic cable networks, Freeform is in the same place regardless of your city or region in the United States. Let’s find out Freeform’s channel number on DirecTV below.
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Freeform Channel Guide
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The History of Freeform
If you don’t recognize the name Freeform, you might know the network by a different name: ABC Family. That’s what the station was famously called from 2001 to 2016. As it turns out, the television network now known as Freeform has undergone several changes since first hitting the airwaves in 1977. It originated under the name CBN Satellite Service, which was used interchangeably with the name CBN Satellite Network. (CBN stands for Christian Broadcasting Network — a product of evangelist Pat Robertson, the man behind The 700 Club.)
While the name would change a couple more times over the next thirteen years, the CBN branding remained integral until 1990. At this time, it spun off from the Christian Broadcasting Network and found new ownership in buyer IFE (a.k.a. International Family Entertainment). As a condition of this sale, CBN made IFE contractually obligated to play The 700 Club every weekday morning and every weeknight. This contractual obligation remains in place to this day, even after IFE was acquired by Fox in 1997 and again by Disney in 2001.
From The Family Channel in 1990 to Fox Family Channel in 1997 to ABC Family in 2001, it’s not surprising to hear that the channel’s viewership plummeted over this decade of name-changing and ownership shuffling. However, once ABC Family took the reins and held onto them tightly, viewership was able to recover — and then exceed all former viewership numbers by a significant margin. In other words, ABC Family was a hit. It remains a key asset of Disney’s television output, even with the name change to Freeform in 2016.
Freeform Sister Stations
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Turning to Freeform on channel 311 on your DirecTV guide, you might find anything from original programs to syndicated shows to classic movies (not to mention The 700 Club… More on that later). Collectively, Freeform programming caters to a diverse audience of younger viewers. However, this audience just so happens to be abandoning live cable television for streaming in record numbers. Freeform’s daily lineup has definitely taken a hit as a result. Here’s what you might find on the network on a daily basis.
Original Scripted Shows
Freeform (and its former name, ABC Family) has always been known best for its scripted shows. From The Secret Life of the American Teenager to Pretty Little Liars, Baby Daddy to The Fosters, the network has never failed to appeal to its target audience of tweens and teens. However, its current lineup of original scripted series has dwindled down to practically nothing in the streaming era.
The Fosters spinoff series Good Trouble is currently in its fifth season. Sitcom Grown-ish — itself a spinoff of ABC’s Black-ish — is in its sixth and final season. Thriller anthology series Cruel Summer is now awaiting a renewal after two successful seasons. Freeform also airs a new animated comedy called Praise Petey that is awaiting a potential second season.
Original Unscripted Shows
Similar to its scripted originals, Freeform once had a long list of original unscripted series. Today, it’s been reduced to just one show: Dating show Love Trip: Paris. It aired eight episodes for its first season earlier in 2023 but is currently waiting to find out if it’s getting renewed or canceled.
These shows in limbo — both scripted and unscripted — face uncertain fates because of the ongoing Hollywood strikes as well as the larger changing landscape of network television. It remains to be seen whether Love Trip: Paris will return for season two.
These days, countless channels air more syndicated shows than new, original programs. It’s a trend you’ve probably noticed throughout your cable guide, not just on Freeform. This Disney-owned channel has five syndicated sitcoms it keeps in heavy rotation: Family Guy, The Simpsons, Black-ish, The Office, and How I Met Your Mother. Scrolling through the guide, these five network comedies are featured far more often than any of Freeform’s own programs.
Of course, we can’t talk about syndicated Freeform shows without talking about The 700 Club. On the air since 1966 and a key part of the station since its very beginning in 1977, The 700 Club must air multiple times a day on Freeform as part of the contractual agreement made when the station spun off from its CBN ownership. Disney has tried to buy its way out of airing this controversial, religious, political program on multiple occasions, but has never been successful.
Filling in the programming gaps on Freeform is an array of contemporary and classic films. The channel has been known for its Halloween and Christmas movie marathons since the ’90s — years before Disney even took over. These seasonal marathons continue to this day, with 31 Nights of Halloween running from October 1st to the 31st and 25 Days of Christmas running from December 1st to the 25th.
Throughout the rest of the year, Freeform plays family-friendly comedies and dramas from the last 40 years or so. Recent examples include Maleficent (2014) and its sequel Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (2019), Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018), Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), and The Devil Wears Prada (2006). Various films from the Star Wars franchise air on Freeform on a pretty regular basis, as well. The same goes for Disney and Pixar animated films.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Walt Disney Company.