Comic-Con: Cable’s Launchpad

Cable networks will be out in force this week at the annual Comic-Con International convention in San Diego, seeking exposure for new shows slated to debut over the next few months.

Most networks will look to build continued momentum for their current shows among the more than 130,000 estimated attendees at the July 9-12 convention, an audience of passionate fans and viewers.

The four-day show has become especially valuable in introducing new series, movies and specials to the boisterous and social media-active group of entertainment aficionados, cable programmers said.

“It’s a great place to be able to celebrate our existing franchises and thank the fans that supported them, but also a place to introduce that group of fans to stuff that’s new,” Walter Levitt, chief marketing officer for Comedy Central, said.


The network for the second year in a row will host a panel for Moonbeam City, the new animated series featuring Rob Lowe, Elizabeth Banks, Will Forte and Kate Mara launching this fall. Levitt said the series was well-received by Comic-Con enthusiasts last year, and Comedy expects to generate even more buzz for the crime-based series in its second go-around.

“I think everyone wants to have that one-on-one connection with the fans,” Levitt said. “We wanted to get it in front of this influential group to lock them in early before the launch.”

For networks like AMC, which first featured its hit series The Walking Dead at Comic-Con five years ago, the convention’s horror and sci-fi focus serves as a perfect launching pad for the spinoff Fear the Walking Dead, which debuts in August.

The network will throw a Fear the Walking Dead party, co-sponsored with Tumblr and Entertainment Tonight, and host a panel discussion with producers that will include clips from the series.

AMC also is previewing its martial-arts themed series Into the Badlands as part of a series panel at the conference. Linda Schupack, head of marketing for AMC, said Comic-Con gives networks a chance to talk to the most passionate fans of a genre or show first, before broadening out the message to a wider group of viewers.

“To get in front of the fans of The Walking Dead franchise and to have them evangelize on behalf of the show is an extraordinary opportunity for us,” she said.

Networks with content not steeped in comic-book or horror-themed programming are also migrating to Comic-Con to expose new shows to the public. TV Land will look to introduce its dark comedy Impastor, starring Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville), as well as comedy Teachers, starring the Katydids comedy troupe.


Despite not having any shows in Comic-Con’s sweet spot, TV Land executive vice president of marketing and creative Kim Rosenblum hopes to ride the passion that convention attendees have for entertainment programming in general — and their desire to share that passion via social media.

“Comic-Con is about passionate fans, and the experience of fans coming together around entertainment that they love and buzzing about it,” Rosenblum said. “The idea of TV Land being there to connect with people who are passionate about pop culture and like to engage in the content and talk about it is valuable.”

Syfy president David Howe said the gathering’s social-media-savvy attendees offer a perfect launch platform to introduce new shows and build critical early buzz.

Syfy will showcase upcoming miniseries Childhood’s End and The Expanse, the latter of which will be elaborately re-created in a local café, where the network will exhibit the first episode of the space-themed series set to debut later this year.

“For Syfy, Comic-Con has long served as a destination for fans of our shows,” Howe said.

Coming to Comic-Con

A partial list of new cable and online-video shows to debut in San Diego:

Thursday,July 9

Hand of God — Amazon

Impastor; Teachers — TV Land

Moonbeam City — Comedy Central

Damien — A&E

Friday,July 10

Shannara Chronicles — MTV

Fear the Walking Dead — AMC

The Man in the High Castle — Amazon

Colony — USA Network

We Bare Bears — Cartoon Network

Saturday,July 11

Into the Badlands — AMC

Childhood’s End, The Expanse — Syfy

Sunday,July 12

The Bastard Executioner — FX

Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll — FX

SOURCE: Networks, Multichannel News research

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.