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San Diego Comic-Con, IGN To Live Stream 34 Hours Of Virtual Show’s Panels And Programming

IGN and San Diego Comic-Con announced more than three-dozen hours of live programming and other content from the now-virtual fan fest unfolding later this month online.

Under the deal, IGN will produce live streams around 34 of the biggest of the [email protected] panels, and create other “shoulder” programming during the five days of the show, roughly 38 hours of live shows.

Those panels will be carried across IGN’s various outlets such as IGN.com, as well as on Comic-Con’s YouTube, Instagram and Twitter sites, and the [email protected] website. The show will unfold online over five days beginning July 22.

As with just about every other live event in United States, the pandemic and lockdown forced Comic-Con to go virtual this year. It was the first time the sprawling gathering has gone virtual in its 50-year history, adding several layers of complexity for the non-profit that runs the mammoth event.

On relatively short notice, Comic-Con International has tried to create an online experience somewhat like what normally would be overrunning downtown San Diego in normal years with hordes of ardent, cosplaying fans of seemingly every corner of pop culture.

“It has been a learning and growing experience for all of us, having to shift to a fully digital event this year,” said David Glanzer, Comic-Con International’s chief communications and strategy officer. “IGN completely stepped up and has helped us navigate and finalize this new approach to ensuring our programming goes off without a hitch, is interactive and engaging, and can be seen by everyone.”

Comic-Con has become a launchpad for most of Hollywood’s blockbuster movie and TV action franchises over the past two decades, with panels featuring first looks at trailers for new shows, as well as stars, directors and other creators frequently participating.

It typically attracts more than 100,000 attendees, and many thousands more descend on downtown San Diego, roaming through dozens of marketing “activations” created by brands and various films, streaming services and TV shows.

[email protected] is striving to recreate much of that experience, including 350 programs, a virtual exhibit floor, the Masquerade cosplay competition, gaming, the Eisner Awards for comic-book creators, and more, said Glanzer. What results won’t be exactly like the in-person experience, but should provide a lot for fans.

“It’s a double-edged sword, of course,” Glanzer said. “We’re sad that we can’t have the physical show this year, but we are excited that anyone who would like to attend will be able to.”

Other IGN programming would include “exclusive interviews, trailer breakdowns, expert analysis, and more. Topics will cover Comic-Con mainstays such as film, TV, comics, gaming, cosplay and collectibles,” according to a release from the organizations.

It’s a formidable technical challenge to generate the programming across 28 different IGN outlets, from TikTok to OTT streaming-video platforms, YouTube, and quite a bit in between, IGN executives said. The company uses a hefty toolbox of programs to coordinate the live streams, including Discord, VMIX, Google Hangouts, and more.

“Typically when we produce an event of this size, our teams are on the ground together at an event, collaborating and pivoting to live-production needs on the fly,” said Terri Schwartz, IGN’s director of content strategy and partnerships.

The fact that dozens of employees and partners are all working remotely, and creating content so many different outlets, only makes it more complicated.

“Working remotely, every time you contact someone it has to be intentional, so adapting to live-production needs requires stronger systems to facilitate collaboration,” Schwartz said. “There are a lot of moving parts to juggle, and strong communication systems are fundamental to making sure everything is operating smoothly — which is all the more challenging when all of our team members are isolated from one another.”

IGN executives said they had to rebuild their production workflows when the pandemic hit, then were able to hone the new systems for the company’s recent “Summer of Gaming” shows. That involved three weeks of panels and live events tied to video gaming, IGN’s semi-replacement for the cancelled E3 game conference.

“We needed to reinvent our production tools from the ground up to execute a show with everyone on our teams working remotely,” said Corrado Caretto, IGN’s senior director of video production.

The Summer of Gaming shows helped fine tune “a system that allowed us to account for every asset, every script, every host, any element that goes into our shows,” Caretto said. “The systems become much more complicated when you can’t be in a room together, but the finished product — hopefully — looks seamless.”

IGN said it has more than 200 million monthly users, more than 16 million YouTube subscribers and another 40 million users on other social platforms. The company is expanding its partnerships with Twitter, TikTok and Snapchat, with special programming and new ad formats for each of those platforms, and increasing distribution on OTT platforms, said Kim Hatfield, IGN’s VP of Sales and Integrated Marketing.

“Even in a digital-only landscape, we are leveraging many of our traditional sponsorship opportunities, as much of our programming is distributed digitally, even if the biggest change this year is it is being produced remotely instead of at a physical event,” Hatfield said.

Having pulled together an online experience for this year, it’s possible that virtual programming will continue to be part of future Comic-Cons, Glanzer said, but first things first.

“I think right now we’re focused on trying to make it all happen as smoothly as possible,” Glanzer said. “I imagine there will always be a digital component of some kind, but for right now, we’re focused on July 22, the first day of [email protected]

And substantial as the online efforts will be, Glanzer acknowledged that some things just won’t translate online.

For instance, for the ardent fans who won’t get the opportunity to camp out waiting for coveted panels in Hall H, Glanzer said, “Well, you can still camp out…but in the comfort of your own bed.”

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