Syfy is going all out for San Diego Comic-Con.
The NBCUniversal-owned cable network, which recently underwent a brand refresh for its 25th anniversary, is investing heavily in the annual event as it looks to lean harder into the geek space. In addition to 15 panels and screenings — including a Battlestar Galactica reunion — Syfy is hosting multiple free-to-the-public parties as well as "superfan"-themed legal weddings (officiated by Orlando Jones). Also part of the plan: three nights of live coverage hosted by Zachary Levi, trivia trolleys, cosplay karaoke busses (and cosplay repair carts). Also be on the lookout for a drumline marching through streets in the Gaslamp Quarter playing theme songs from Star Wars to Game of Thrones and more.
To hear Syfy and USA Network exec vp marketing and digital Alexandra Shapiro tell it, the massive push is all part of the cabler's push to put genre and fans at the forefront with the recent brand refresh timed specifically to Comic-Con.
"Comic-Con is our Super Bowl and this is our coming out to our fans and a real-life expression of what this new brand is," Shapiro tells The Hollywood Reporter. "The Super Bowl is the big event and has a tailgate and afterparty, and we wanted to [do] all that and to do it in a way that's inclusive and not exclusive."
In a bid to make Comic-Con's traditionally exclusive star-studded end-of-day parties more inclusive, Syfy is additionally teaming with Levi to host two free-to-the-public events. On Thursday and Saturday nights, Syfy will take over the Children's Museum with free (first-come-first-served) parties featuring live performances. The Spazmatics will perform Thursday. Levi will also skip his annual "NerdHQ" events and instead further team with Syfy for his annual Nerd Party on Friday, though that remains invitation only.
Shapiro notes Syfy's activations — including trivia trolleys offering cash and other prizes as well as cosplay karaoke busses (with special surprise guests) — are part of the overall plans to make fans "feel like they're being celebrated."
While cutting through the clutter at events as massive as Comic-Con is nearly impossible given the crush of activations around television, film, comics, video games and more, Shapiro hopes the Syfy branding in and around the Convention Center will deliver one important message.
"The advantage this year is consistency and standing out," Shapiro says, noting the new Syfy logo (seen above) will be plastered all over San Diego. "We hope to reframe the perspective of Syfy. That's why we rebooted: We want to be seen as a trusted source of information on the genre at large, 24/7/365."
Among Syfy's 15 panels are "The Great Debate," which will feature a panel of experts taking on some of the genre's biggest questions — "Star Trek or Star Wars," for example — in a moderated discussion. That panel best exemplifies Syfy's push to be a home for genre fare that goes beyond its original programming. The network will also panel 11 shows (see Syfy's full panel and screening schedule, below) including Superman prequel Krypton and returning favorites The Magicians and Battlestar Galactica's second reunion in as many months. (The cast recently reunited at the ATX Television Festival in Austin.)
As for the weddings (and vow renewals), Jones will be legally ordained and officiate over the geek-themed events at locations still to be determined around Comic-Con.
"We will have chapel hours and all the things you need to make a fairy tale or superhero wedding, from accessories and bow ties to capes, whatever you're passionate about, we'll have the appropriate confetti, music and departure vehicle for said couple. It will be Instagrammable in every single way, including customizable wedding vows," Shapiro says. "And Orlando has always wanted to do this. And the best part of all of it: everything we are doing is free."
Here's Syfy's full panel schedule:
Thursday, July 20
1:15-2:15 p.m.: Syfy Hosts the Great Debate: John Hodgman moderates a panel that includes Adam Savage, Orlando Jones, Aisha Tyler and more TBA. Ballroom 20.
2:30-3:30 p.m.: Battlestar Galactica reunion: Ron Moore, Tricia Helfer, Katee Sackhoff, Mary McDonnell, Grace Park and more TBA. Ballroom 20.
3-4 p.m.: Van Helsing. Indigo Ballroom.
4-5 p.m.: Z Nation. Indigo Ballroom.
7:15-8:15 p.m.: 12 Monkeys. Room 6BCF.
8:15-9:15 p.m.: Dark Matter. Room 6DE.
Friday, July 21
6:45-7:45 p.m.: Sharknado 5. Room 6DE.
Saturday, July 22
1:15-1:45 p.m.: Krypton. Indigo Ballroom.
2:30-3:30 p.m.: Wynonna Earp. Room 5AB.
2:45-3:45 p.m.: Happy. Room 6BCF.
4-4:50 p.m.: The Magicians. Indigo Ballroom.
5-5:50 p.m.: The Expanse. Indigo Ballroom.
5:30-6:30 p.m.: Ghost Wars. Room 6A.
8-9 p.m.: Channel Zero: No-End House (screening at the Horton Theatre)
9:30-10:30 p.m.: Blood Drive (screening at the Horton Theatre)