#PrettyLittleLiars: ABC Family in TV’s Post-Network Era
This thesis explores the branding of ABC Family as a home for ‘Millennial’ viewers through its original TV drama programme, Pretty Little Liars. ABC Family emerged during what Amanda Lotz (2007) terms the ‘post-network’ era of American television, a period that has been characterised by fierce inter-network competition and the availability of TV programming on a larger array of platforms, including online platforms. These revolutionary changes have been coupled with the emergence of a commercially desirable demographic known as the ‘Millennials’, a group of young people who are considered to be ‘native’ to this ‘post-network’ environment and whose media use and preferences are challenging networks to revise their strategies and develop programmes that aim to solicit their attention and engagement. Pretty Little Liars has been specifically constructed to assert the brand identity of ABC Family as a channel “for and about Millennials” (Liesse A2). This programme has sought to distinguish itself within teen-oriented TV drama by incorporating cinematic aesthetics, serial storytelling, narrative complexity, and intertextuality – all of which have been characteristic of adult-oriented ‘high-end’ TV drama in the ‘post-network’ era. Pretty Little Liars has supplemented these efforts to distinguish itself by cultivating a thriving online presence. Important to this online presence are the use of ‘transmedia storytelling’ and social media. As this thesis demonstrates, transmedia storytelling and social media have the capacity to significantly extend the experience of a TV programme beyond what is aired on television. Importantly, their deployment in support of Pretty Little Liars has been successful in encouraging consistent viewing of new episodes as they are broadcast, a pattern that persists despite the post-network era’s capacity for delayed viewing on alternative platforms. This thesis undertakes an in-depth examination of ABC Family’s ‘post-network’ strategy in three chapters, each of which takes a different critical perspective. Chapter One examines the internal and external challenges that contributed to the emergence of ABC Family’s rebranding. Chapter Two analyses Pretty Little Liars as a ‘high end’ teen-oriented TV drama that functions to elevate the profile of ABC Family while simultaneously engaging ‘Millennial’ viewers. Finally, Chapter Three explores the transmedia extensions of Pretty Little Liars that function to supplement the television narrative in ways that encourage and reward consistent viewing patterns and long-term loyalty.