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Television is tuned into Comic-Con

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Kai Ryssdal: 130,000 very dedicated people are going to be in San Diego this weekend. They're fans -- one might easily say devotees -- of Comic-Con, the international comic book convention that descends upon Southern California every year about this time.

Ten years ago, Comic-Con was just that: a lot of tights and capes and superheroes. Now it's more pop culture than anything else. And, it turns out, a great place for television.

Andrea Gardner explains.


Andrea Gardner: Trekkies and Gleeks unite. Comic-Con will soon open its doors. And this year, many of the convention's sneak peeks and star-studded panels will come from the small screen. The major film studios aren't as involved this year, but more than 70 television shows will be at the convention.

Entertainment analyst Marissa Gluck says Comic-Con falls at the right time of year for TV.

Marissa Gluck: Late July is perfect to ramp up interest in September debuts. It's a little bit late in the summer movie blockbuster season, but it's perfect timing for the television season.

It's all about building buzz. A good screening at Comic-Con means more than just people applauding. They go online, they tweet, and share the news with anyone who will listen, says Comic-Con veteran Jason Enright.

Jason Enright: The kind of people that like superhero movies, if they like something and they are on board with it, they sell it. Like, they sell it to their friends. There's something about the nerd fan that you don't get with other fans.

And they geek out about way more than just sci-fi and superheroes. They watch shows like Family Guy...

Family Guy clip: Frank and I just closed a deal to buy the cabana club... Oh wow Brian, what else are you doing that's terrible and stupid?

True Blood...

True Blood clip: Your blood tastes like freedom, Sookie. Like sunshine in a pretty blonde bottle.

And It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia...

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia clip: And I'm serious... I'll eat that eraser whole.

Those shows will be at the convention, by the way. So when TV marketers see these super-fans all under the same roof, they want in.

Dana Walden is the chairman of 20th Century Fox Television.

Dana Walden: These viewers have essentially built 20th Century Fox Television. They are the collectors. They are the people who, once they commit to our series, they're in for a long time.

Twentieth Century Fox began attending the convention with sci-fi programming, like The X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But two years ago, it brought Glee to Comic-Con. The series is now a staple.

Walden: I think that Glee probably doesn't fit into the conventional, now outdated, model of a show that would be showcased at Comic-Con. But really, if you dig a little bit beneath the surface, the Glee fan shares much in common with the fans of great science-fiction or genre shows.

Convention-goer Jason Enright agrees. He works at a comic book store in Burbank and says he's glad Glee has a place at Comic-Con. But he's really looking forward to discovering the next big sci-fi show. ABC's Lost ended more than a year ago.

Enright: At the end of this, we might not be talking about a movie for the first time. We might be talking about one of these brand new shows coming out this year. There's room for a new king.

And loyal fans expect a lot. When they're disappointed, the negative buzz can be a new show's kryptonite.

In Los Angeles, I'm Andrea Gardner for Marketplace.

About the author

Andrea Gardner is a journalism professor and writer in Pasadena, Calif.

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