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How Syfy Wire built its own convention inside Comic Con

Syfy Wire brought Comic Con to the fans -- whether they were roaming convention halls or streaming along at home.

Mike Sorrentino/CNET

As many as 250,000 people attended New York Comic Con this month. That meant teeming crowds, boisterous queues and tons of noise. But in one corner of the Jacob Javits Center was a rare sight: A crowd of 200 people absolutely still and quiet.

These fans were sitting in front of Syfy Wire's stage, listening to comic book writer Todd MacFarlane chat about comics and movies. A similar scene happened earlier that day when original Green Power Ranger Jason David Frank appeared, speaking both to the audience and to viewers on Syfy Wire's livestream. And when the cast of Riverdale swung over.

Spawn creator Todd McFarlane on Syfy Wire's stage at New York Comic Con 2018.

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Oh, and Syfy Wire also had the cast of Doctor Who for an interview on the day the Jodie Whittaker-helmed season debuted.

On top of livestreaming these interviews from its own stage, Syfy Wire also ran livestreams for three of the biggest venues at New York Comic Con, so fans around the world could watch the Star Trek: Discovery, Daredevil and Deadly Class panels live. Syfy Wire is the official video partner for New York Comic Con, leading the website to broadcast nearly all of the major panels at the convention along with hosting four days' worth of original content.

Point being: If you weren't able to make it to New York Comic Con, you could still see everything thanks to Syfy Wire.

"Our presence is both to the consumer here and at home," said Jesse Murray, Syfy's head of digital content. Syfy Wire wasn't just streaming over platforms such as YouTube and Syfy.com, but it was also publishing highlights from the convention to Facebook Live.

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In Syfy Wire's fan lounge, a wall of fan-created art could be colored in while waiting in lines for giveaways.

Mike Sorrentino/CNET

"Because this is such a powerful statement on the ground, but also at home through all these different channels ... we're going to be introducing the idea that this is what we do now," Murray said.

For Syfy Wire, a fandom and geek culture-oriented website that is owned by yet editorially independent from the Syfy television network, the goal is to engage fans and be an authority on everything that happens at the convention. Matthew Chiavelli, Syfy's SVP of digital, said that the brand's push into comic convention content began earlier this year at the smaller Emerald City Comic Con in March, where it streamed from a live stage as well as from several panel rooms. It later made a similar appearance at April's Chicago & Entertainment Expo.

During July's San Diego Comic-Con, Syfy Wire and its parent network Syfy were almost ubiquitous. While not the official livestream partner as it is in New York, Syfy broadcast SDCC coverage from The New Children's Museum near the convention, while the cable network held panels for its shows The Magicians, Krypton and Deadly Class. It also ran karaoke buses that picked up fans for singalongs throughout San Diego's Gaslamp District.

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The control room behind the Syfy Wire's stage at New York Comic Con.

Mike Sorrentino/CNET

"It was amazing to see the numbers we were pulling online and particularly we were seeing average view lengths of 20 to 25 minutes, which is insane for digital video," Chiavelli said, noting that the bulk of the viewers came in using YouTube on a streaming box such as Apple TV or Roku. "A lot of people were really putting it on and just enjoying it all day," Chiavelli added.

The New York Comic Con livestream is Syfy Wire's most wide-reaching effort in this space so far. Its broadcasts led to 2.9 million YouTube streams through Oct. 11 and 8.9 million viewers catching wrapup coverage of New York Comic Con from the Syfy cable network. The YouTube numbers are 34 percent higher than its Emerald City coverage and 20 percent up from the Chicago show.

Syfy created all that coverage from several production areas in New York including a control room behind the live stage, a separate stage for taped interviews on a level above the main convention hall as well as streams broadcasting from the Javits Center's Main Stage, Madison Square Garden and the Hammerstein Ballroom.

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The cozy upstairs studio where Syfy Wire shot interviews away from its live stage.

Mike Sorrentino/CNET

In addition, Syfy Wire's editorial team was buzzing around the convention, with some members manning interviews from the live stage and others roaming the floors to speak with fans on current and upcoming stories, like the upcoming 45th anniversary of The Exorcist this December.

While Syfy Wire wasn't the only stage that was broadcasting at New York Comic Con -- for instance, Marvel also had a live stage with livestream -- it was pretty comprehensive. For instance, if you still want to see all the panels that were at Madison Square Garden on Oct. 6, this eight-hour video with timestamps in the description will let you click to the Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Daredevil, Star Trek: Discovery and Outlander panels that took place that day. But if you're hungering after the exclusive footage and trailers that attendees saw, you're out of luck. The streams cut away whenever trailers or footage were shown to the live audience.

While Syfy Wire hasn't yet announced any plans for 2019 Comic Con events that will get the full livestream treatment, it wouldn't be surprising to see it take over at least a handful next year. Perhaps with a few more successes under its belt, it could become the de facto Comic Con channel.

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