9 Ways to Watch the Presidential Debates Online

This year you have a slew of ways to watch the presidential debates.

By Rachel Cericola

The nightly ritual of story time, dishes, and making lunches has a logic and timing of its own. But if you missed the first two presidential debate, you missed a pair of the most talked-about political events ever—and you may want to give the final one your undivided attention.

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will meet for the final time at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas on Wednesday, October 19. This time, the candidates will field questions from moderator Chris Wallace, the anchor for Fox News Sunday and from voters who submitted topics through the online portal, PresidentialOpenQuestions.com. The brouhaha begins at 9:00 p.m. Eastern time.

Like the previous debates, this one will be broadcast simultaneously on the major old-line television networks ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC, as well as on Bloomberg TV, CNN, C-SPAN, Fox News, and MSNBC. But if you can't be near a TV as the event unfolds, you don't have to try to follow vicariously through your Facebook friends and Twitter feeds. Here are nine ways to watch the debate through the web.

Sling TV

Even if you don't have cable or satellite, you don't have forgo premium TV channels. Sling TV is a streaming service that offers access to more than 25 different networks starting at $20 per month. The basic Sling Orange package includes CNN and Bloomberg TV, with channels like Fox, NBC, and Univision available for as little as $5 more per month. Sling TV has a seven-day free trial option, too, so you can catch the debate before signing up for a subscription. The service works with smartphones, tablets, computers, Roku boxes, Chromecast, Apple TV, and more.

Sling TV offers CNN, Bloomberg TV, and a slew of other channel options.


This online portal will give you a slew of free ways to watch the debate. The Young Turks and Complex News will provide YouTube-only options for watching and commenting during the debate. NBC News, Fox News, PBS, The Washington Post, Univision, and Telemundo all plan to have YouTube channels streaming the live event as well.

ABC News on Facebook

ABC News maintains a live channel that is available through your computer, a Roku box, the Apple TV, and more. Just before the first debate, however, the network announced plans to team up with Facebook to deliver all of the debates through the ABC News Facebook page. This arrangement allows viewers to ask questions, make comments, and participate in a pre- and post-debate discussions online.

Bloomberg TV on Twitter

Many people will take to Twitter to voice their opinions about the debate. The official Twitter debate feed, however, will be backed by Bloomberg TV. The social media site will stream the network's live feed, including debate-themed programming slated to air before and after the debate itself. Everything will be split-screened with a curated list of scrolling Twitter comments, so there should be live fact-checks, jokes, and rants aplenty.


CBS has a free news app that's live 24/7 through Roku, the Xbox One, smartphones, tablets, and more. But the network also has a subscription-based service known as CBS All Access that delivers live TV, along with access to more than 8,500 TV shows on demand. If you're not sure whether a subscription would be worthwhile, you can opt for the free one-week trial to enjoy the debate and a little binge-watching on CBS's dime. After that, you can expect to pay $5.99 a month for limited commercials or $9.99 a month for commercial-free programming.


This free option will be streaming live video during the debate, and you can view it through a smartphone, tablet, computer, Roku box, or Apple TV. Though it's free, you'll need a compatible device and a cable or satellite subscription to have access. Check the CNNgo website to see whether your specific provider works with the online service—not all of them do!

NBC News and AltspaceVR host the Virtual Democracy Plaza, with watch parties and live discussions.

Fox News Go

Fox News will air the debate live on TV, but you can catch the same coverage on the web, too. Like CNN's portable option, Fox News Go is available through an array of devices. And as with that service, you'll need to log in with your cable or satellite to gain access to the 24/7 streaming service.

Other NBC Sites

In addition to all of their TV coverage, NBC and MSNBC will have an online presence during the debate—at no charge. If you want to watch through a computer, just click over to NBCNews.com or MSNBC.com. NBC News will have its aforementioned YouTube channel in operation as well.


Sunday night isn't the greatest night to host a party, even if it's organized around watching a much-anticipated debate. That's probably why AltspaceVR has teamed up with NBC News to present a streaming virtual-reality experience that's the next best thing. To use it, you'll need the AltspaceVR app, which works with the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Samsung Gear. But if you have the right equipment, you can watch the debate through the NBC News Virtual Democracy Plaza with other political junkies who own pricey VR headgear.

Photo credits: ABC/Ida Mae Astute, Sling TV, NBC News.