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Summary:

Many people ask why Comic-Con has held out on live-streaming the panels and events which make up the convention’s core — a paid live-stream offering would likely have no trouble finding an audience. But for now, live-streaming is unnecessary: The fans are doing it for them.

Bane and Batman tussell at San Diego Comic-Con 2012

In this age of everything, everywhere, online, I’ve heard many people ask why the San Diego Comic-Con, July’s annual celebration of film, television and etcetera, has held out on live-streaming the panels and events which make up the convention’s core.

Yes, it’d be a major infrastructure demand, but the cameras are already set up, after all, and given the rate at which badges sell out, a paid live-stream offering would likely have no trouble finding an audience. Watching the action of SDCC unfold from the cheap seats this year, though, it seems the reason parent company Comic-Con International has held out is because live-streaming is unnecessary. Its attendees are doing the work for them.

In 2003, I began regularly attending the San Diego Comic-Con, and every year since I found it to be, essentially, pop culture Christmas. From watching Joss Whedon directly address questions about a Dr. Horrible sequel, to gawking at small children in adorable costumes, to finding that one collectable or comic that would be available nowhere else, attending was always worth the humidity, money and inconvenience.

However, this year and last year, I’ve stayed home. And while I miss the people I might meet there, the exclusive swag being passed out, even the enthusiastic crush of excited fans — I honestly don’t feel like I’m missing much.

That’s because observing Comic-Con from afar these days isn’t like listening to your friends talk about a great dinner party you weren’t invited to: Social media and smart phones have transformed Comic-Con from an exclusive, insular event to a big fandom party for everyone. YouTube currently hosts thousands of videos posted just within the past few days. Twitter is lush with quotes and photos. Professional journalists and devoted fans alike are united in sharing the experience online, as fast as humanly possible.

And this is formalized well beyond the bloggers recapping panels and screenings with super-human speed, bringing news about things like Dr. Horrible airing on the CW next year — the studios are in on the game, as well.

The Quicktime release of the Oz the Great and Powerful trailer was timed with its presentation in Hall H. The ABC series Once Upon A Time dropped its season two preview on YouTube as its panel ran. MTV hosted hours of live-streamed interviews on its site — non-geo-blocked, even.

And web originals are just as savvy as the studios, if not savvier. Break Media’s Nerd Machine, streaming live from the so-called Nerd HQ, managed to bring in a number of celebs for some memorable moments.

And at the Geek and Sundry panel on Saturday morning, producer Felicia Day launched the first episode of the channel’s newest series, Written By A Kid — simultaneously launching the trailer on YouTube.

The only content launching at Comic-Con definitely not making its way to the web are the screenings of pilots for shows like Revolution and 666 Park. But given current trends in experimenting with digital release, there’s a half-decent chance that they might be previewed online as well.

In 2003 (those dark pre-YouTube days), there was no handy way to distribute these clips online. The convention center barely had wi-fi. The sneak peeks that fans were getting at Van Helsing and Spider-Man 2 were truly exclusive to the convention; they were part of what made the then-$60 badge price worth it. And with attendance at 70,000 (as opposed to 2011’s 126,000+), it was much more possible to see everything.

Not so these days, when fans resort to camping out days in advance to make sure they see that one special thing. And those die-hards, the ones for whom the first-hand experience is the appeal, will always flock to San Diego. So will media professionals, who have transformed the conference’s after-hours into one of the year’s biggest networking events.

But for the average pop culture enthusiast — the Dexter viewer looking for a sneak peek at Season 7, the casual Community fan who just wants to know what was said during the show’s panel — it’s now enough to follow Twitter and keep up with Tumblr tags. How Comic-Con evolves with this shift is still to be seen. But in the meantime, even if Comic-Con isn’t live-streamed, it’s still possible to feel like you’re there.

Photo courtesy of Nerdpromnomnom, used with permission.

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