In an article published on October 6, ABC announced a name change for ABC Family. According to the article, “ABC Family changes its name to Freeform in January 2016! The network’s new name reflects our ongoing priority to super-serve Becomers, fans on that epic adventure of becoming an adult—from first kiss to first kid!”
When I read about the rebranding, I visited Freeform.com to see if ABC was using the exact match .com domain name. Yes, Freeform.com currently forwards to ABCFamily.Go.com, the ABC Family website. A current Whois lookup confirms that Freeform.com is registered to ABC, Inc.
Interestingly, ABC.com Inc. was not listed as the registrant of Freeform.com as recently as October 6, 2015. A historical Whois search on DomainTools shows that the domain name was registered to a Texas company. Prior to this archived record, the domain name was privately registered for quite some time. I presume the privacy was turned off pending the domain name transfer. I would imagine the deal had been worked out prior to the announcement of the rebranding.
Obviously, owning the exact match Freeform.com domain name is important. Assuming the rebranded network Freeform is marketed as much as ABC Family, there would likely be considerable traffic “leakage” to the Freeform.com domain name. If they hadn’t acquired the domain name (or agreed to acquire the domain name) prior to the announcement, the former owner of Freeform.com could have been in a better position to negotiate a deal knowing that a large company likely needed to have the domain name.
I reached out to the former registrant of Freeform.com to see if the company could comment on the sale. If I hear anything, I will update the article. My guess is the sale price is confidential though.