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The three 2016 U.S. presidential debates rank as the most-viewed political live streams of all time

By Kurt Wilms

Group Product Manager

This year, more news organizations live streamed the U.S. presidential debates on YouTube than ever before, and we saw record-breaking interest from the YouTube community. The 2016 presidential debates rank as the three most-viewed political live streams of all time. In total, these debates drove 8.5M live watch hours and averaged 1.7M live peak concurrent viewers.

Last night’s final presidential debate delivered:


  • 2.8M live watch hours, nearly five times higher than 2012
  • 1.7M live peak concurrent viewers, over four times higher than 2012
  • Over 140 million views on all debate-related videos


Elections-related YouTube searches are also at an all-time high. Searches for U.S. election content are up 547 percent compared to this time in the last presidential race.

Throughout the debates, millions of viewers tuned in and stayed engaged. The average live session duration was 22 minutes across all three presidential debates and concurrent viewership consistently peaked towards the end of the debate.

In true YouTube fashion, Americans weren’t the only ones involved. Have a look at who was watching the most around the globe:

With only 18 days until U.S. Election Day voters are preparing to head to the polls. If the voter registration deadline in your state hasn’t passed, register today! It only takes 1 min., 34 seconds.


Kurt Wilms, Product Lead, Live Streaming at YouTube, recently watched “The Third Presidential Debate.”