The Top Media Moments of 2016

Steve West

The year was 2016—it was the best of times, but will more likely be remembered as the worst of times. A shaky 12 months of wins, losses, scandals, scares, and untimely celebrity deaths, culminating in a triple loss before over the holiday season (yes I listened to Careless Whisper on repeat AND watched Star Wars to cope).

And through it all, one hallmark event consumed us with a myriad of scandals and incessant negative press—the 2016 election.

But this article isn’t about the election (pop the champagne). That’s because 2016 was filled with plenty of other media-making moments that dominated headlines and social media.

So, we kept tabs on TV and online mentions last year to determine the biggest and most-talked about media moments of 2016. Here they are:


#10 Simone Biles

The Olympic phenom, already dubbed “The Greatest Gymnast of All-Time,” took home four gold medals in Rio. She shattered records, and performed routines and tumbles never-before attempted on the Olympic stage.


#9 Michael Phelps’s Last Olympics

A true American sports hero—Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympian of all time, earning 28 medals over the last 12 years. Ending his career on top, he added 5 medals to his tally in Rio, with his new wife and son in the stands to witness his incredible run come to an end.


#8 The Failed Coup in Turkey

It wasn’t just a tumultuous year in the US, as many countries abroad experienced their own share of turmoil. While a recent terror attack has the world’s attention, it was Turkey’s failed coup d’etat that made earned massive media attention in 2016. The attempt by a faction within the Turkish Armed Forces was unsuccessful, and the world condemned the attempt, calling it disrespectful of democratic institutions.


#7 The Pulse Nightclub Shooting

Unfortunately, the United States has become plagued with mass shootings and the gun control debate is at the forefront of our politic issues. Orlando became the location of the deadliest mass shooting by a single shooter, and the direct attack on the LGBTQ community put the United States and the world into mourning.


#6 The Cubs Win the World Series

After a 108-year losing streak, the Cubbies finally did it in an unforgettable Game 7 victory that will go down in history as one of the greatest games ever played. The Cubs win was a shining beacon of happiness during the last week of the never-ending US election.


#5 Prince’s Death

The sudden and unexpected death of a pop culture icon not only shook the US, but the legion of fans he amassed around the world. While 2016 had its fair share of devastating losses, Prince’s weighed heaviest on our hearts while turning some attention to the country’s current opioid crisis.


#4 Pokémon Go!

Nintendo’s first attempt at mobile gaming was an instant success, and Millennials flocked to the streets to walk around while staring intently at their phones. Alright, that’s typically our reality anyway, but Pokémon GO! was a viral success for Nintendo as it not only captivated children but also tugged on the nostalgic heartstrings of young adults reliving their favorite childhood sensation.


#3 Rio Olympics

Then there was Rio – one of the more controversial Olympic games in modern history. While the United States celebrated an incredible victory over the rest of the world, the scandals surrounding Brazil and Ryan Lochte didn’t exactly showcase last year’s games in the best light.


#2 Zika

Speaking of Brazil, the world was thrown into panic with the outbreak of Zika in 2015, and quickly became one of the most-discussed topics of 2016. With the unfortunate birth defects associated with Zika, it remains a high priority issue as the virus has made its way into the US by way of Florida.


#1 Brexit

Remember back in June when the United Kingdom voted to remove itself from the European Union, and everyone in the US thought, “Wow! Can’t believe they went and did that! At least that won’t happen in our country!” Alright, we don’t need to compare apples to apples, or maybe oranges to oranges, but the Brexit dominated the globe, and the unexpected outcome resulted in the resignation of the UK’s prime minister and brought to light the recent outcropping of nationalism in many countries around the world.


Those were the biggest TV and online moments of 2016. As we wrap up our first official week of 2017, it’s best we all just focus on the year ahead.

Make sure to check out our data featured in TV Guide, where they covered the top TV moments of the year.

And for the marketers out there, read our predictions piece on the 7 Ways Brands Will Transform TV and Media Strategies in 2017.

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