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Cable Nets To Have Major Presence At Comic-Con

General-entertainment comedy and drama cable series shows will vie with traditional science fiction and comic book-themed shows for attention at this week's annual Comic-Con convention in San Diego, which begins July 21.

As the once niche convention for hardcore comic book and sci-fi fanatics draws more mainstream audiences - this year's event is expected to draw more than 130,000 attendess -- cable channels like USA Network are showcasing their general-entertainment-themed shows in an effort to reach viewers.

Cable's number-one rated network is hosting Comic-Con panels for several of its hit series, including action drama series Covert Affairs and Burn Notice, as well as dramedy Psych. USA, which is making its third straight appearance at Comic-Con, said it has found an audience for its more mainstream shows amidst all the more niche-themed content highlighted at the convention.

Last year, USA Newtork drew more than 4,000 attendees for panel sessions featuring stars from its comedy detective series Psych and spy drama Burn Notice, according to Alexandria Shapiro, USA's senior vice president of brand marketing and digital.

"I think the dynamics of Comic-Con have changed dramatically over the last three years," said Shapiro. "I think everyone realized that this cultural phenomenon that takes place every year with the rabid consumer fan bases had a much broader appeal than what it was historically created for."

Shapiro said the growing popularity of new media outlets like Facebook and Twitter allow the network to get information from Comic Con back to the show's fanbase quickly, providing USA with an efficient marketing tool. "Our goal is to not only give back to the fans that are there but also to our larger fan base."

Recognizing the growing appeal and reach of Comic-Con, on demand content aggregator In Demand will make its maiden voyage to Comic Con this year, teaming with MSOs like Time Warner Cable and Hollwyood studios Lionsgate, Paramount Pictures, Universal Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, DreamWorks, Relativity and Warner Bros to promote cable's movie on demand product, according to In Demand chief creative officer Stacie Gray.

Still, for other networks like AMC - which will present its popular zombie-driven series Walking Dead -- Comic-Con represents the perfect venue to present sci-fi/comic book-themed series to hard core fans. The network kicked of its marketing of the series - based on a graphic novel of the same name - at last year's Comic-Con.

The positive word-of-mouth coming out of Comic-Con for the show helped drive the Walking Dead's eventual ratings success, according to Lisa Schupack, senior vice president of marketing for AMC.

"For us, our strategy is to ignite the uber fans and Comic-Con and feed their passion, and then use that momentum to gradually broaden our marketing efforts to a wider base," Schupack said. "The Walking Dead as a property based on a graphic novel is a perfect fit for Comic-Con, so for us it's the perfect launch platform for our marketing."

Starz Entertainment, which will conduct panels for Spartacus: Vengance and Torchwood: Miracle Day, says Comic-Con provides the best opportunity to directly interact with fans of its action/sci fi series.

"We have this pent up energy of the fan base that's interested in having contact with the shows, so Comic-Con gives us this opportunity to put the show in proximity to its fan base in a way that no other event really does," said Starz Media managing director Carmi Zlotnik.

Cable At Comic-Con

(Partial List of Network show panels)

MTV -- Beavis & Butthead; Death Valley; Teen Wolf; Good Vibes
BBC America - Doctor Who; Bedlam
FX - Archer, Wilfred, Always Sunny In Philadelphia, Sons Of Anarchy
Epix - The Captains
Spike TV - Deadliest Warrior
Adult Swim - The Venture Bros., NTSF:SD:SUV::, Children's Hospital, Black Dynamite, Robot Chicken, Eagleheart
Cartoon Network - The Clone Wars, Regular Show, The Problem Solverz!, Adventure Time, Ben 10, Generator Rex
HBO - Game Of Thrones
Showtime - Dexter, Shameless, Homeland
G4 - Attack Of The Show!* XPlay All Access*

*Live show telecast from Comic-Con.