What's one huge lesson Sarah Barnett, president of BBC America, has learned from events like Comic-Con?
"Be superfans of your fans!"
That's the approach BBC America brought to this year's New York Comic-Con, where it took over Madison Square Garden, with panels and mini-screeners for conventiongoers, as the first TV network to expand its presentation into that massive theater.
Comic-Con, which also takes place in San Diego every year, is a place where fans come first. TV shows and networks combine with high-profile movies and comic books to create a whirlwind of fandom.
"This is one of the most pop-culture literate groups of people," said Barnett. "They know their stuff. And there's an openness to good ideas and content. They're ready to give things a go."
At this year's convention, BBCA introduced three huge and exciting projects: the upcoming season of Doctor Who, featuring Pearl Mackie who stars as the Doctor's new companion; a dazzling new show titled Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, based off of beloved novels from Douglas Adams and starring Elijah Wood and Samuel Barnett; and a new show called Class, which is a spin-off from Doctor Who and explores the repercussions of time travel on the school in London.
In partnership with a corgi society, ("Well, who doesn't love corgis?!" Barnett wondered) the cast of Dirk Gently walked some adorable dogs on stage during their live panel event.
"Imagine how confused these dogs must be," said creator Max Landis.
"We all feel really proud to have the fans we have," she said. "There's such a feeling of celebration of the fans and of the work of people like Steven Moffat and Max Landis."
The hundreds of people in Madison Square Garden were treated to clips from all three shows and a panel involving each respective cast. Fans in quirky costumes were invited to also ask questions, reminding folks of why the event was happening at all.
This also included the full first episode of Dirk Gently, which felt just like Doctor Who, in the best way possible. It's not to be missed when it debuts on Oct. 22. Fans of witty, British mysteries full of danger and lovely, caring people should definitely tune in. And if you get confused, remember what Dirk always says: everything is connected.
To show off just how thrilled the network is about these shows, the team also organized an "escape the room"-style experience that takes place in a "panic room." Participants only had nine minutes to solve three riddles to try and get out of the room, which is modeled after Todd's apartment in the show.
The challenge: solve three clues in the time frame in order to get out of the apartment. These clues involved figuring out a padlock combination, unlocking hidden drawers and other secrets you have to discover for yourself. The time crunch made this puzzle extremely stressful (in a fun way!) and teams who solved all three clues won a well-earned custom tote bag and T-shirt to remember their time in the detective agency.
The new shows, and this immersive marketing display at NYCC, hope to reach a similar audience to that of Doctor Who, and Barnett is excited for new fans to discover them as well.
"These projects have something that's kind of bonkers brilliant about them. They're slightly silly, crazy entertaining, and at the heart of them is something that's really original and fresh," said Barnett.
Check out what BBCA presented to fans on Friday below: