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Comic Con Wisdom

NEW YORK — Cable networks know there’s more than one conventional venue to reach rabid sci-fi and comic-book fans.

More than a dozen networks showcased their new shows and stars this past weekend at the New York Comic Con, which was estimated to draw more than 105,000 fans to a packed Javits Center.

While smaller than the summertime Comic-Con International Convention in San Diego, which tops 130,000 attendees, cable marketers said the cozier atmosphere of the Oct. 11-14 New York event works well for their entertainment-themed shows.

“It’s really a wonderful place to launch big movies and TV shows that are at the front of entertainment,” said Nancy McGee, executive vice president of marketing for Starz, which made its first appearance at New York Comic Con with a panel for its new drama series Da Vinci’s Demons. “It’s really the perfect place to unveil our shows. The Comic Con core fan is someone who enjoys entertainment that focuses on extraordinary stuff including horror, sci-fi and action/adventure.”

AMC (Walking Dead series), Syfy (Rise of the Zombies original movie) and Adult Swim (Robot Chicken) felt right at home with content appealing to the core horror and sci-fi Comic Con attendee. But networks like Starz and Travel Channel believe there’s room at the convention for more general entertainment-driven shows as well.

“If you enjoy pop culture and the front edge of what’s happening in entertainment, it’s an event that a lot of people can enjoy, not just people who are strictly comic book fans,” McGee said. “It’s broadened so much, to include other types of entertainment, that it attracts a big audience and press, which is good from a marketing standpoint.”

Travel Channel hopes showing off reality series Toy Hunter — featuring renowned toy dealer and Comic Con veteran Jordan Hembrough — will help build appeal among younger viewers. “The New York Comic Con has been evolving over time as an important destination, but provides more accessibility [to visitors than San Diego,” Eleo Hensleigh, senior vice president of marketing and communications for Travel Channel, said. “For us it’s a place where the younger part of our audience watches to see what’s going on.”

Given the increasing number of cable networks participating in Comic Con, some executives are concerned that their shows could get lost in the crowd. But Starz’s McGee said the better, more-targeted shows will always stand out amid the clutter.

“What you need is a show that can stand up and stand out to break through the crowd,” she said. “Those shows will always grab [the attendee’s] attention.”

R. Thomas Umstead
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.