Merry Comic-Con eve! It’s time for our annual in-depth analysis of the SDCC programming lineup. Settle in, stats nerds!
As we noted last year, every few years Comic-Con sees a big uptick in the total number of panels scheduled. While there was a minor increase this year of about 3.5%, it’s a far cry from last year’s huge 10% jump. We’ve also been watching this trend for long enough to notice that it’s every other year, at least at this point, that we see a double-digit increase in panels.
Total Number of Comic-Con Panels
|Number of Panels||612||678||708||781||808|
2016’s schedule hosts 808 panels, excluding games, film screenings, both the international film festival and the children’s film festival, anime, and autographs. At press time, only one panel has been cancelled (IndieWire’s sendoff panel for Gravity Falls), and it has been excluded from this list.
In 2015, 781 panels were scheduled. That gives us a small increase of 3.46% in 2016, seemingly confirming our theory about “off” years on the schedule. 2015’s huge 10% increase in panels brought standout events like the Star Wars panel and live concert, in addition to big panels like Game of Thrones and DC’s Batman vs. Superman preview. For as many jokes as long time attendees have made about “off” programming years, the numbers are backing that up. As we said last year: like many crops, SDCC has a banner year followed by a recovery year.
It’s still a steady increase, though. The opening of new convention space next door at the Marriott Marquis & Marina provides Comic-Con with the space necessary to continue expanding their panel lineup. The fan culture panels and film festival selections have been moved into some of the new Pacific Ballroom space, and more of the new Marriott rooms are reserved for attendee registration.
However, the rearrangement of rooms has resulted in a decrease in total available seats: down from 26,948 last year to 25,743 in 2016. The majority of seats still belong to the massive Hall H, which is set to house 22 panels during this year’s four-day convention. That’s down from 26 last year, but 2016 Sunday is particularly light – Hall H closes up shop by 3pm. While it’s only home to 2.7% of the weekend’s panels, it’s got nearly 21% of all the weekend’s available seats – if every seat turned over at the end of each panel, 143,000 folks could see something in the room. That’s still more than enough seats for each attendee to sit in on at least one panel, despite the decrease in that room.
Long-time readers of this analysis know that Hall H is in no danger of be dethroned – its 6,500 seat capacity is hard to beat. But it’s far from the most-scheduled room. This year, Room 28DE will host 42 panels (5.2% of all programs, with just 1.9% of all available panel seats). That’s one more panel than last year’s most-scheduled room, Room 23ABC; 28DE is slightly smaller, with 308 seats (about 60 fewer seats than Room 23ABC).
Ballroom 20 returns this year with 25 events, an impressive number considering Ballroom 20 doesn’t operate on Sundays. That’s 3.1% of all panels with 16.2% of all available seats. Even with one fewer day on the schedule, Ballroom 20 still outworks Hall H.
The SDCC panel room equivalent of a reliable mid-size sedan, room 6BCF again holds 32 panels, with 4% of all programs and 9.9% of all available seating.
Comic-Con 2016: By Room
|Room||Events||%||Seats||Tot. Seats||% Seats||Change ('15-'16)|
|Pacific Ballroom 23||13||1.6%||160||2080||0.3%||NEW|
|Pacific Ballroom 24||39||4.8%||195||7605||1.1%||NEW|
|Santa Rosa Room||3||0.4%||150||450||0.1%||NEW|
The age old debate of how much comic programming is left at Comic-Con brings some good news this year: comic programming is up slightly, just 0.7%. But it’s still the majority of content, claiming 35.8% of the schedule. Those panels don’t have the same number of available seats as the film and TV lineups in bigger rooms like Ballroom 20 and Hall H, but it is still about the comics – at least by one metric.
TV retains second place with 16.2%, and film panels drop to 7.2%. Culture panels are on the upswing this year, taking 14% of the schedule – attributable to SDCC’s committal to the “fan culture” programming room and 2016 being a big anniversary year for several properties.
Comic-Con 2016: By Category
|2016||# Panels||% of Total||% Change ('15-'16)|
Comic-Con’s programming series are holding steady, with the How-To series 1.3% increase as the only notable change. The Spotlight series remains the largest, at 5%, illustrating how important comics still are at Comic-Con.
Comic-Con 2016: By Series
|2016||# Panels||%||% Change|
Friday is, again, the most crowded day for panels. Last year Thursday temporarily stole the crown, but 2016 is back on track: with 245 panels on Friday accounting for 30% of all panels, it’s a big day. Sunday sees another small 0.6% decrease, a pattern now over several years. Sunday is always lighter, but as it continues to slip even as the total number panels increases, it’s clear that panel organizers would rather get ahead of the PR machine at the beginning of the weekend.
Comic-Con 2016: By Date
|2016||# Panels||% of Total||% Change ('15-'16)|
Although this stat is skewed – obviously there will be more panels in a six hour period than in a three hour period – it’s still fun to note. Clearly, panels pick up in the afternoon – despite the early morning lines, the programming schedule isn’t geared toward early risers. The most popular hour for a panel to begin is 1:00, with 87 panels starting then throughout the course of the weekend.
Comic-Con 2016: Time of Day
|Time||# of Panels||% of Total|
|Morning (9am - 11am)||167||21%|
|Afternoon (12pm - 6pm)||530||66%|
|Evening (7pm - 10pm)||111||14%|
And here again for your reference is a chart of the estimated seating capacities for each programming room.
Comic-Con 2016: Room Capacity
|Horton Grand Theatre||550|
|Morgan Aud. (Library)||350|
|Pacific Ballroom 23||160|
|Pacific Ballroom 24||195|
|Santa Rosa Room||150|
|Shiley Aud. (Library)||333|
Like Christmas in July, San Diego Comic-Con only comes once a year – so we hope you have a great time! With a programming schedule this robust, we’re sure you can find something wonderful to pop into this weekend.
Hall H capacity and all programming information from the official 2016 San Diego Comic-Con programming schedule. All other room capacities based on the floor plans from the San Diego Convention Center, Hilton San Diego Bayfront, Omni San Diego, Manchester Grand Hyatt, and the San Diego Public Library. Statistics exclude film festival, autographs, games, and anime programming but include panels that may have been cancelled after July 18, 2016.