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Comic-Con Draws Interest

7/18/2009 2:00 AM Eastern

Once considered a show strictly for comic-book enthusiasts, Comic-Con International has now become a magnet for cable networks looking to showcase their science-fiction fare to attending consumers.

Cable networks such as Syfy, Cartoon Network, BBC America, ABC Family and G4 have invaded the convention, which runs from July 23 to 26 in San Diego, sponsoring parties and creating booths to market their wares. For cable, the mostly consumer-targeted show provides an opportunity for networks to take their shows directly to consumers.

“Comic-Con today has become the equivalent of an 'upfront’ for consumers,” said Brenda Freeman, chief marketing officer for Turner Broadcasting’s Animation, Young Adults & Kids Media group. Cartoon Network is hosting several panels surrounding shows including Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Ben 10 and Adult Swim’s Robot Chicken.

“The four-day event is simply the best place to talk directly with our most loyal and ardent fans. And they couldn’t be more appreciative of getting a real first look at multiple new entertainment projects we’re preparing to launch in the next several months,” she added.

Syfy (the former Sci Fi Channel), which has been exhibiting at Comic-Con for nearly a decade, says it uses the event to introduce new shows and promote changes to existing shows. This year, the network will host several panels featuring talent from its upcoming Battlestar Galactica offshoot series Caprica, according to vice president of brand marketing Blake Calloway.

The network will also take over a restaurant across the street from the conference and brand it based on a café in its hit series Eureka.

“It gives us a chance to get all of our new and exciting shows out there as well as some of those that we expect to come back,” he said. “A lot of these fans help amplify it beyond the four walls of the convention by updating their Facebook pages and blogs about our content. It’s a way to get real positive word of mouth.”

But Comic-Con is not only serving as a marketing vehicle for cable networks. G4, which has maintained a constant presence at the show for several years, will for the first time televise a live conference from the show on July 25. The Star Wars panel, hosted by Attack of the Show’s Kevin Pereira and Olivia Munn, will feature never-before-seen footage from the popular movie franchise.

The Comic-Con event is one of G4’s biggest shows of the year, according to president Neal Tiles. The network’s two day coverage of of Comic-Con 2008 drew some 1.3 million viewers.

Tiles said the show has become a pop-culture and entertainment phenomenon as comic book content has become the subject of blockbuster films like Transformers and television shows like Cartoon Network’s Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

“The audience that attends Comic-Con is extremely passionate and tends to be extremely viral, so everyone looks to cash in on the chance that the show can light a fire under their product more so than through traditional marketing means,” Tiles said.