Freeform Boss Tom Ascheim Moves to Warner Bros.

Elaine Low and Joe Otterson

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UPDATED: Freeform president Tom Ascheim will be stepping down from his position as the head of the Disney-owned cable network this summer for an executive role at Warner Bros.

WB announced that Ascheim will be joining the company as president of global kids, young adults and classics. In his new role, he will report to Warner Bros. chair and CEO Ann Sarnoff. He will now lead Cartoon Network, Adult Swim and Boomerang, as well as managing the studios of Cartoon Network and Warner Bros. Animation in Los Angeles. He will also oversee the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) channel.

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“I am thrilled to be joining Warner Bros. and especially excited to be working with the deeply talented folks at Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Boomerang, TCM and Warner Bros. Animation,” said Ascheim. “I’ve been watching their work since I was a child and it’s thrilling to be part of such a storied group. I’m equally excited to be working again with Ann Sarnoff who remains one of the best people I’ve ever had the privilege to work with.”

At the most recent Television Critics Assn. press tour in January, Ascheim — who has been president of the Gen Z and young millennial-oriented Freeform since Dec. 2013 — touted the network’s “four-part formula for longevity and maybe gentle world domination.”

“One, take a stand,” Ascheim told TCA attendees. “86% of young adults expect brands to be more than just a product. They want brands that support their belief system and we’ve built Freeform with that philosophy in mind. Two, push boundaries of all kinds…Our audience demands originality and that’s what we strive to deliver.”

“Three, epic stunts,” he said. “’31 Nights of Halloween’ and ’25 Days of Christmas’ delivered more than 100 million people just last quarter. 90% of that viewing is live. Who said young people don’t want TV? Four, stream everything. Three years ago we made a commitment to stream all of our original programming. Today, two thirds of that viewership happens on Hulu. Boy, it’s nice to have them in the family.”

Ascheim, who at Freeform reports to Disney Television Studios and ABC Entertainment chairman Dana Walden, oversaw original programming and acquisitions, franchise management, marketing, sales and operations, and was responsibile for the overall strategic and creative direction for Freeform. In 2016, he spearheaded the re-branding of the network from ABC Family to Freeform, positioning it as a cable network for young adults.

Ascheim sent the following memo to Freeform staffers, announcing his departure:

Dear Freeformers:

I have bittersweet news to share with all of you. After much agonized consideration, I’ve decided to accept a new job which I will be starting on July 1st. I promise to share all the details with you, hopefully in the very near future, just as soon as I am able. I will be here manning the Freeform ship through the end of June.

This was not an easy decision, most especially because of all of you. Together we have built a fantastic creature called Freeform, of which I will be forever proud. While I will be really sad not to see you every day (even when we are no longer huddling in place) I know that this team can weather anything. I also know this is a hard time in the world, and thus a difficult time for a transition but there is not a group about which I am more confident.

I want to thank Bob, Ben, Peter and Dana for giving me the chance to lead all of you and to transform the very successful ABC Family into what was at the time a risky proposition called Freeform. And look at us now. Your work – the shows, the brand, the oh so many insta posts, the incandescent casts, the extraordinary press, the experimental digital creations – have turned that risky proposition into a thriving brand and business. I could not be prouder of what you’ve pulled off and I’d like to think the world is a little better because of what we all have done and you will continue to do.

When we toast someone’s departure, I always say and mean, once a Freeformer, always a Freeformer. I hope you will afford me that same Freeform club membership and I will absolutely continue to think of all of you as my work family.

I’m at work – at least on Blue Jeans—until the end of June, so we will have plenty of time to talk. And you know you’re not shy, so come find me using whatever screen is handy.

All my best,

Tom

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