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TV really gets into game at Comic-Con

Elaborate promos include Ferris wheel, ship, maze

There’s no confining TV at Comic-Con now.

Following in the footsteps of film, which has long used the city of San Diego as a canvas for promos, the TV biz is now also mounting big-scale promotions, with displays as lavish and attention-getting as any big-budget studio tentpole ad.

Inside the San Diego Convention center, banners for HBO’s “True Blood” hung on the halls, while attendees were given the opportunity to fight the Foot at Nickelodeon’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” booth or play the part of a pet zombie at AMC’s “The Walking Dead” photo opp.

But it was outside the convention center that the insanity truly began: NBC erected a full-scale decrepit Ferris wheel to promote its new series “Revolution.” Sony’s “Elysium” ship created a gawker slowdown, while fans negotiated NBC’s “Grimm” maze.

Movie promotions stretched the length of the Gaslamp District, with the battle for fan attention turning the streets into an advertising war zone. Wilfred wandered off-leash to promote the FX show; the Golden Yolk eatery became a hub for the Hub; pedicabs featuring Fox characters from “The Simpsons,” “American Dad” and “Family Guy” shuttled folks to TV-themed parties and events.

In 60,000 square feet outside the convention center, Warner Bros. set up a stage for live taping of “Extra,” as well as live performances and screenings from the WB library. The space was also used to display the history of the Batmobile; all six models were there for the ogling.

“Warner Bros. is always thinking of the fans first,” said chief marketing officer at Warner Bros.Television Group Lisa Gregorian. “It makes a difference what you do at Comic-Con if you always think of what the fans want.”

Meanwhile, TV panels have moved beyond the mere “meet the stars” premise of yesteryear; pressure to get bigger and better is a tangible force, with Con-goers expecting big announcements, surprise stars, sizzling clips and insane giveaways.

For the first time, TV shows were featured in Hall H, where high-profile tentpole promos usually take place. HBO’s “Game of Thrones” and AMC’s “The Walking Dead” made use of the 6,500-seater to announce new cast members and preem dates. (The third season of “Thrones” bows March 31, while “Dead” is set for Oct. 14.) NBC’s “Community” used its panel to calm the nerves of fans after the firing of showrunner Dan Harmon.

Goodies stood in for a lack of news; WBTV’s “The Big Bang Theory” pushed the swag envelope by granting one lucky winner a trip into space with NASA astronaut Richard Searfoss.

And some shows used panels for farewells. Showtime’s “Dexter” paid respect to fans in its final trip to the Con, while “True Blood” showrunner Alan Ball, who’s stepping down at the end of this season, received a standing ovation from the audience and cast at the HBO panel.

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