Sentimentally looking back as we enter a new year has long been tradition, and it gets easier each year as technology advances and everything is streamed, recorded, and archived. 2016 was a landmark year for a multitude of reasons, and live streaming was how we collectively viewed those reasons. Among those surveyed by Livestream, 81% of people said they watched more live video in 2016 than last year. The ability to be present without being present thanks to live streaming technology has made an audience out of us all, whether we were cheering, jeering, marveling, or mourning as we watched the year in politics, television, sports, technology, and more unfold on our devices. Here are some of the most memorable events we streamed in 2016.
The results of the 2016 U.S. presidential election will live on in infamy, and it had the audience to prove it. Akamai Technologies, a popular content-delivery network provider, counts live streaming of election night as the single biggest live internet event ever carried by its network. According to Akamai, election-specific traffic peaked at 7.5 terabits per second on the platform. In comparison, live video streaming of the first presidential debate between Clinton and Trump in September peaked at 4.4 Tbps.
Other live video platforms did not miss out on the election night action, either as standalone broadcasts or via channels of partners. YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, CNN Digital, NBC News Digital, CBS, USA Today, and more also delivered this historic election to viewers’ homes, phones, and laptops, seeing record numbers across the board. CNN Digital recorded its largest global audience with 27.7 million streams of its election coverage, with total video starts for election day coming in at 59 million. NBC News Digitals saw more than 120 million video starts, its highest total to date.
Make no mistake, Kim Kardashian—this time it was Donald Drumpf who broke the internet.
Forget about marriage—sports are what truly bring us together, and 2016 was a good year for being brought together (or competing against one another, depending on who you ask). The Olympics are about togetherness, and they were held in Rio de Janeiro this past summer. Although viewership was lower among traditional TV viewers, Rio 2016 was the most streamed Olympic event ever. By Tokyo 2020, it is predicted that live streaming will be the most popular way to watch the Olympics, but that’s a story for another time.
The record numbers that Akamai saw on election night were previously held by last summer’s European soccer finals. Euro 2016 saw record viewership in Europe throughout the competition. To no one’s surprise, France and Portugal, who saw their teams through to the final, set new records for the Euros as the most-watched program in their respective countries. But everyone loves a good underdog story, and underdogs were not amiss last year: to everyone’s surprise, Iceland made it to the quarterfinals. 99.8% of Iceland’s modest but excitable population tuned in to watch their ragtag team play England, shattering all previous records in the tiny Nordic nation.
Back in the United States, Super Bowl XLIX became the third most watched Super Bowl broadcast in U.S. history, raking in an average of 1.4 million viewers a minute on CBS’ live stream and 115.5 million viewers overall.
Statistics are coming. 2016 saw the return of some television behemoths which have since become streaming behemoths. HBO’s most popular series of all time, Game of Thrones, returned with its sixth season in April. According to Entertainment Weekly, the show averaged over 23 million viewers per episode overall, up 15% from the previous year. Its season finale was watched by 8.9 million people, a new high for the show. This may be attributed to the HBO Now platform, a streaming subscription which allows those without HBO on cable to stream the show in real time.
And stream they did. Viewership of this season of Game of Thrones on HBO Now and HBOGo went up by over 70% from last year. The real time aspect is key to viewers—nobody wants to be late to the party and see spoilers for an episode ten minutes after it airs, especially when central characters are being killed off left and right. Another show that sees numbers skyrocket after the deaths of beloved characters (spoiler alert!) is The Walking Dead, which also premiered its sixth season earlier in 2016. According to a study by Frontier Communications, it was the most streamed live TV event in Texas and Virginia.