would the show be just as well off without bronies?
Ah, yes. The ’ol “What if Bronies never happened” question.
Basing from previous instances of that debate, I think we can agree that if 4chan never took notice of MLP then it would have remained in as much obscurity as the Carebears animated series. Carebears carries on without all the attention, so would FiM. There would still be 2.5 seasons or whatever but after that, it would simply end without leaving a trace.
Without all the attention from Bronies, FiM would continue on it’s own way. Living up to nobodies expectations. It would succeed in its original goal: Appealing to young girls and selling merchandise but I don’t think it would have amounted to much more than that. Certainly not becoming what it is known for now.
It was 4chans influential power that turned MLP from being just another regular cartoon to an internet sensation. The same power that turned Rebecca Black from Wannabe to actual celebrity is the same power that selected MLP and carried it into animation stardom
The shows good qualities would still be there but they would have gone undiscovered without internet nerds there to over-analyse them.
Derpy would not exist, Vinyl Scratch would not exist, Doctor Who would not have been revisited by generation Z. There would be no Fox reports, no conventions, no detailed cosplays, no inspired artwork or music. All of those things are here now due to Brony influence.
Would FiM have been just fine without all that? Yes. It would have done well enough by itself. But only as far as ordinary non-notable kids cartoons go.
Long story short, I would never suggest the show would not have worked without Bronies, but it is only because of Bronies that the show ascended to the level of fame it has now.