Comic-Con at Home panels

Take Comic-Con out of San Diego, and you’ll get a few YouTube Zoom Q&As that no one watches. Despite attempts to replicate the geeky joys of the massive annual fan convention with a series of virtual panels and trailer premieres, Comic-Con at Home was a bust. A new report reveals that social engagement was down 94% from last year’s live event, while the average views on YouTube for Thursday’s panels came around to a measly 15,000.

Variety published a report analyzing the failure of Comic-Con at Home, the virtual fan convention that ran from July 22-26 in place of the annual San Diego Comic-Con, which was canceled due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Any hopes that this virtual convention could duplicate at least some of the glory of the massive annual fan gathering were dashed as the numbers began to role in, per data from the social media analytics firm ListenFirst.

According to ListenFirst, tweets that mentioned Comic-Con at Home were down 95% from 2019’s live convention — just 93,681 tweets against 1,719,000 tweets in 2019. Tweets about the top 10 TV events were also down 93%, and tweets about the top 5 movie panels were down a whopping 99%.

Meanwhile, the YouTube numbers looked even more bleak. YouTube, which hosted the majority of the Comic-Con panels, showed an average of 15,000 views per panel on Thursday, on which the majority of this year’s biggest panels were scheduled. Variety notes that 15,000 people is over double the capacity for Hall H, Comic-Con’s biggest venue, but it’s a pitifully small number for a video on YouTube, where a minor viral hit will average in the millions.

It could be blamed on the lack of exciting participating properties. AMC’s The Walking Dead, 20th Century Studios’ New Mutants, CBS’ Star Trek panels, and two Keanu Reeves panels for Bill and Ted Face the Music and Constantine were the biggest names at Comic-Con at Home. Though New Mutants did score the biggest numbers, with the panel logging over 208,000 views on YouTube since July 23 (thanks to a first look at an opening scene), it’s still not much to sneeze at — for comparison, the 50-second ad promoting the Comic-Con at Home panel for New Mutants has logged over 303,000 views in 11 days.

On the TV side, the strongest performer was the Walking Dead panel, logging over 84,000 views on YouTube and generating nearly 11,900 tweets. But Variety notes that the Walking Dead panels, along with all the other Comic-Con at Home panels, did not include any kind of fan interaction, one of the biggest components of San Diego Comic-Con. The videos weren’t live premieres, which allow for a chat window for users watching at the same time, and even the comments sections were turned off. Not a great way to encourage fans to stick around for the half-hour to 45-minute panels.

It seems like none of the major geek studios — especially the MIA Lucasfilm, Warner Bros.’ DC Films, and Marvel Studios (the latter of which only had a measly Marvel’s 616 panel debuting clips that had already dropped on YouTube) — had much respect for Comic-Con at Home and generating interest with exclusive content. Bill and Ted Face the Music had released a new trailer and announced a new release date just two days before its panel. Star Trek: Discovery announced its season 3 premiere a few days after its panel.

While Comic-Con organizers only had a few months to put together this event, it’s clear that Comic-Con at Home is a bust, and will be no substitute for the real thing (if we ever get it again).

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