SAN DIEGO – More people viewed portions of the online-only Comic-Con International last weekend than could ever fit in the San Diego Convention Center. But online buzz didn't match the viral reach of past years.
San Diego's biggest event was forced to go fully on the internet for its 51st year because of COVID-19. More than 300 panels, which would normally be spread out throughout the center and parts of downtown, were uploaded steadily to YouTube over five days. All were free to view. The event is typically limited to 135,000 attendees but two panels topped 200,000 views — the TV show "Vikings" and the movie, "The New Mutants." Normally, those events would have been held in Comic-Con's biggest room, Hall H, which has a capacity of 6,500 people.
Measuring the success of the convention is tricky. Fan responses were mostly appreciative and positive over social media, but a lack of big names, like Marvel Studios, and the new format may have limited its impact. Analytics firm ListenFirst told Variety that social media traffic for the online event was considerably down compared to last year with 95% fewer mentions on Twitter.
Viewership isn't an apples-to-apples comparison vis a vis the in-person show. Panels can be viewed online long after they first go live, and it is hard to tell if people who were viewing the event would have actually bought tickets. However, it might give studio executives a better indication of what is connecting with fans. Wendy Patrick, a social media expert and business lecturer at San Diego State University, said seeing the YouTube views could give organizers a better sense of what is a priority for fans. She considered the views for the event high considering that so much is missing from the usual Comic-Con.
"That just goes to show you the amount of interest, even though they are missing all the excitement, all the energy," she said. "The whole town goes crazy for a couple of days. You can't re-create that online."
The event was missing some of its biggest names — the film divisions of DC and Marvel, as well as "Star Wars" — so most Comic-Con watchers were prepared for less buzz than previous years.
Here are the most popular Comic-ConHome panels (as of last Monday morning), based on number of views:
Vikings: 215,943 views.
The History show won the prize for the most views with a panel that featured showrunner Michael Hirst and five of the program's stars.
The New Mutants: 208,410 views.
Possibly the last X-Men film of the 20th Century Fox era, "The New Mutants" has been delayed repeatedly since 2018 but excitement for the film appears to be growing.
The Walking Dead: 85,029 views.
A zombie epic that has now spread into three shows, "The Walking Dead" continued its major presence at Comic-Con with its flagship show on Friday.
Star Trek Universe: 63,213 views.
The Star Trek panel was one of the few at the convention that came with major announcements. CBS producers confirmed a new show called "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds" that will revisit classic characters over 10 episodes and a kid-friendly animated show on Nickelodeon called "Star Trek: Prodigy" premiering in 2021.