Survey Results: The Show With the Strongest Online Fandom Is….

After writing an article about what the TV Guide cover poll taught us about online fandom (read it here), a university student named Lethia Williams wanted to see if she could determine which show’s online fandom was the most passionate, so I linked to her survey and put out a call for readers of all shows to respond here.

Lethia, with assistance from David Lemmons, examined the results from 3,562 surveys (about triple the sample size needed for normal surveys). Responses were received from every continent around the world except for Antarctica, and fans of more than 65 shows on each of the big networks and cable channels provided their input. Of the surveys, 3,284 were complete and valid.

According to the survey, the show (currently on the air) with the strongest online fandom is Supernatural. The full list of top 13 shows is:

(1) Supernatural
(2) Castle
(3) Smallville
(4) Community
(5) Hawaii Five-0
(6) Chuck
(7) Bones
(8) Leverage
(9) The Vampire Diaries
(10) Fringe
(11) Burn Notice
(12) Glee
(13) Mad Men

You may recall that the survey measured online fandom by a fans’participation in online activity, such as visiting web sites about various shows, as well as in-person activities, such as attending conventions. Lethia also collected data on the number of websites in existence for particular shows. Lethia and David also examined ratings history from Nielsen to see whether online passion was also related to the ratings for any given show. I’ll link to the full reports below, but I’d like to summarize the findings for you. Here’s what she discovered:

The lower the ratings, the higher the online passion for a given show. You’ll notice that three CW shows made the list, each of which have low ratings by normal Nielsen standards. Many of the other shows on the list – such as Fringe, Burn Notice, Chuck and Leverage – are not ratings giants, but have very devoted fans. Lethia said that her hypothesis was based “on the belief that fans of shows with lower viewership would live in constant fear of their show being canceled, and would therefore be more passionate in an effort to keep their favorite show on the air’and concluded that her hypothesis was generally correct.

Sci-fi shows have stronger online fandoms. It’s not surprising that two of the top three shows can be considered fantasy or science fiction shows. Lethia guessed that this was true because ‘they create an entirely new universe for their fans to be involved in.’Science fiction shows had a higher mean passion than other genres, while sitcoms had the least passionate online fandoms. In fact, Lethia went on to hypothesize that people who are attracted to sci-fi shows tend to be more creative in general, which generally leads to the kind of behavior that signifies a more passionate online fandom (creating fanart, fanvid, fanfic, and attending conventions). Viewership and genre are also related, so they can’t be sure if it is the viewership or the genre (or both) that drives passion.

The results of this survey shouldn’t really surprise people. Look at the TV Guide Cover poll – the top finalists all included Supernatural, Smallville, Chuck and Castle. Further, the recent TV Guide fan favorites poll winners include Supernatural as best sci-fi show, Castle as best drama, and winners from Chuck (you can watch interviews with the winners here).

Do you Supernatural fans want to know how passionate you really are? Lethia sent me the following stats:

Supernatural fans also are more active in the qualifiers for ‘fandom’. They do not just watch the shows, they interact. More than 80% of Supernatural fans have started new social networking activities because of the show, compared to only 60% of the fans of other shows. 75% of Supernatural fans have produced creative enterprise (fanfic, fanvids, fanart, etc) inspired by the show compared to only 58% of fans of other shows. Supernatural fans are also prolific. Fanfiction.net has more than 47,000 works for Supernatural. Castle, the show with the second most passionate fandom in our survey has only 3,500. Supernatural fans also vote. For anything. Often. 98% of Supernatural fans say they vote in polls, compared to 91% of other fans. 70% stating they always vote, with 45% voting more than 50 times per poll. In comparison, only 56% of fans of other shows claim they always vote, and only 30% vote more than 50 times per poll. Finally, 30% of Supernatural fans have attended a convention for their show compared to only 12% from other shows.”

Update: Because enough people have asked, I’ll let you know that the average age of Supernatural fans responding to the survey was actually 31 years old. This can actually be contrasted to the average age of fans responding for all other shows, which was 27.

As for my own personal thoughts, after having experienced the Supernatural fandom, I’m not surprised by the outcome, or for the presence of many shows on the list (such as Castle, Smallville, The Vampire Diaries, and Fringe, which I think all have fairly strong fandoms online). I have to say, I am kind of surprised by the fact that shows like Community and Hawaii Five-0 are so high on the list. I honestly had no idea how strong their online fandoms were.

I also find it interesting that no procedural shows (such as CSI or Law & Order) are in the top 13 list, but think this fact relates to some of Lethia’s conclusions about ratings and genres. On a side note, on any given day when we post news or other types of articles, two of the most popular shows on TVOvermind are both Supernatural and Castle, and shows such as Bones, The Vampire Diaries, Smallville and Glee are also very popular with our readers, which I think speaks to the results of this survey.

If you want to learn more about how the survey results were analyzed and about the results, Lethia’s methodology report can be read in full here, while her final submission to me can be read here.

So what do you think, online fans? Are you happy with the results?

clarissa @ tvovermind.com
twitter.com/clarissa373
twitter.com/tvovermind

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