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''Heroes''' online initiative

The show’s creators hope to expand its fanbase with a new Web site

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Heroes takes the Internet about as seriously as it does saving the world. Since the show’s inception, creator Tim Kring and NBC have been cleverly using the Web to cultivate a buzzing base of fans through NBC.com, with blogs, an ongoing graphic novel, and numerous subsites like VotePetrelli.com, which recently told a story involving Mr. Linderman’s failed attempt to rig Nathan Petrelli’s election. That’s only the start. On May 7, NBC will launch YamagatoFellowship.org, which presents itself as a research foundation — run by Hiro’s father (George Takei) — that explores Japanese mythology and heroic archetypes across cultures. The site will lay crucial groundwork for next season and further positions the series as a cross-medium sensation. ”Tim’s one requirement was to respect the viewer, so the content on the sites isn’t fluff; it’s real and important to the show,” says Vivi Zigler, NBC’s exec VP of digital entertainment, which creates the online elements in collaboration with the Heroes writing staff.

This summer, NBC will also be using the Web to lure new fans. Among the ambitious plans: giving people the ability to view each character’s story arc separately (the Heroes season 1 DVD, due in August, will offer the same option). There’s also talk of staging a global scavenger hunt, which would help launch season 2. Kring promises an online experience that’s as new-user friendly as his TV program. ”We don’t want to damage the show by having an Internet component that’s for geeks only,” says the producer, who considers himself one of those nongeeks. ”I’d be all over this if I had time to actually do stuff like this.” Apparently, the Old Media doesn’t just write itself.