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28 June 2008   Comments Off on Went at Comic-Con

Twentieth Century Fox Television is getting its geek on.

The studio has decided to dramatically expand its presence at Comic-Con, bringing a whopping nine properties to next month’s annual fan festival in San Diego.

In addition, for the first time, the TV powerhouse will have its own booth on the floor of the San Diego Convention Center, taking over the space previously used by sister film company Fox Atomic.

The expansion by 20th is the latest example of TV studios invading Comic-Con, which is now considered a must-attend for marketing executives looking to hype shows with even the slightest geek appeal. Among TV studios, Warner Bros. Television has long been the 800-pound gorilla of Comic-Con, and it’s expected to have a massive presence at this year’s convention, with seven shows and a Warner Bros. corporate booth.

But 20th has upped the ante by having its stars appear on nine panels. In addition, while no-brainers such as Joss Whedon’s “Dollhouse” will be at Comic-Con for 20th, the studio is bringing down less obvious choices such as “Prison Break” and “Bones.”

After taking five shows to the convention last summer, “We realized the tremendous impact you can have with Comic-Con,” said 20th Century Fox TV Chairman Gary Newman. “The fanatics who come to an event like this really propel your awareness and hopefully boost the have-to-have qualities in these properties. They become ‘must-see,’ and it starts with word of mouth.”

Mr. Newman said he learned a hard lesson last year when the 20th-produced NBC drama “Journeyman” — which had elements of time travel — failed to break through with a mass audience. The fact that the show had no major presence at Comic-Con didn’t help.

“NBC took care of the shows they owned, like ‘Heroes’ and ‘Bionic Woman,’” Mr. Newman said. “We realized that if we’re going to use Comic-Con to benefit our business, it was going to have to be a studio” initiative.

Joining “Dollhouse,” “Prison Break” and “Bones” in the 20th contingent will be “24,” “Life on Mars” and animated half-hours “Family Guy,” “The Simpsons,” “American Dad” and “Futurama.” Cast members and writers from most of the shows will sign autographs at the studio’s 600-square-foot booth.

The studio also will be selling original art from its animated series and giving away a premium item (details are still under wraps).

Mr. Newman said Comic-Con represents a “big financial investment” for 20th, but one that is needed in an age in which TV studios must have a more intimate relationship with viewers.

Rather than just distributing shows to networks, “Our customers and clients have become the consumers themselves, as opposed to the networks or the trade press,” he said. “They’re the ones going to iTunes, buying the DVDs, streaming on Hulu or buying the T-shirts. Any opportunity to build the relationship with the consumer, we take.”

As for specific 20th talent planning to attend Comic-Con, numerous writers and producers are expected, including:

— Kiefer Sutherland and Carlos Bernard will be on hand for “24.”

— Seth MacFarlane, Seth Green and Alec Sulkin will represent “Family Guy” and “American Dad.”

— Eliza Dushku will hype “Dollhouse,” along with Mr. Whedon.

— Most of the “Bones” cast, including stars Emily Deschanel and David Boreanaz, will attend.

— From “The Simpsons” and “Futurama,” look for Matt Groening, Al Jean, David X. Cohen, Katey Sagal and Billy West.

Wentworth Miller, Dominic Purcell and Sarah Wayne Callies will bang the drum for “Prison Break.”


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