What's the "Dexter" story? Well, the author of the books, Jeff Lindsay, came up with the idea for "Darkly Dreaming Dexter" 'while attending a civics group luncheon in his home state of Florida. (when) "an idea just popped into (his) head that a serial killer isn't always a bad thing." By the time lunch was over, he had outlined most of the story on a napkin.' The show was based on the first book, but has taken its own course after that. In fact, Lindsay's still writing books on Dexter and "Dexter" has been renewed for a third season and there's a few discrepencies between the TV show and the books, but, hey... who cares? It was a bit of a hit on Showtime, then when the WGA went on strike and there wasn't a lot of original content around, CBS went to its sister station Showtime, looking for content and "Dexter" fit the bill. Now, even though all of season 1 and season 2 are available online at the torrent sites and on the Showtime site for free, as well as on DVD in stores, it's STILL doing well on CBS, pulling in over 6 million viewers each week.
So, why do I think that "Dexter" is so successful? First and foremost, great characters and great story. Not only does each episode have its own story, there's an ongoing story woven throughout each season. The writing is brilliant. Secondly, the way they marketed it was genius. The hard-core, ultra-violent Showtime show will be making it's way over to CBS, but don't worry, we'll cut out the really bad parts. All of a sudden, parents hate it, kids love it. If they had just brought it over and not said anything, it would probably just be filler right now. Thirdly, they're extending the "Dexter" brand everywhere they can. They're using mobile, they have podcasts, they have a wiki fan site, the website itself is extensive and they even have a soundtrack out. They're saturating the market everywhere they can and they know who their fans are... and that's why they're making a video game. According to Len Fogge, the executive VP of marketing, digital media and research at Showtime, "Dexter is one of the most popular shows on Showtime with a particularly strong fan base among gamers." They know... trust me, they know.
So, what can you take away? If you have a product (let's just say it's an indie-horror film), think about every possible way to extend it out into the marketplace. Be everywhere... or at least appear like you're everywhere. Do that by knowing who your audience is and being everywhere that they are. Worked for "Dexter".