How to Stream Tonight's Presidential Debate For Free, No Cable Required

Illustration by: Angelica Alzona
Illustration by: Angelica Alzona

The first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is tonight at 9pm ET, 6pm PT. And while every broadcast network will be airing the debate commercial-free, cordcutters might be wondering how to watch without a traditional TV connection. Well, we’ve got you covered.

Thankfully, cordcutters have a vast array of options to watch the debates this season, unlike the rather bare bones offerings of debates in past election cycles. An estimated 100 million people are expected to tune in tonight, which would blow away the previous viewership record for a presidential debate made in 1980 between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. Roughly 80 million people watched Carter and Reagan, and those poor schmucks didn’t even have a single Snappychat or Twitter Tweet between the two of them.

Whatever happens, all eyes will be on Trump and Clinton tonight. And cordcutters have so many options. Many livestreams have a pregame schedule that starts one hour before (8pm ET/5pm PT) and sometimes even two hours before (7pm ET/4pm PT) the actual debate starts. But if you’re only interested in the main event, make sure your popcorn is popped and your deplorables are deplored by 9pm ET, 6pm PT.




Twitter is livestreaming Bloomberg TV’s coverage at starting at 8:30pm ET.


Facebook is partnering with ABC News to bring a livestream of the debate to viewers. All of the questions for the first debate will come from NBC and the producers hosting the event, but Facebook is helping to collect questions for the next debate on October 9th at Washington University in St. Louis, which will be hosted by Martha Raddatz from ABC News and Anderson Cooper from CNN. But remember, Facebook is not a media company.


PBS Newshour will also have a Facebook livestream which will be followed by a half hour of analysis.

Telemundo will also have a Facebook livestream with coverage in Spanish.

AltspaceVR - Virtual Reality

Do you want to watch the debate in virtual reality? Well, that’s an option. AltspaceVR has partnered with NBC News to bring a virtual reality experience to the debate, which will purportedly allow you to experience the event “with people around the world.” If that sounds like an enjoyable use of your time and you have a Samsung Gear VR or Oculus Rift, you can check out AltspaceVR for more info about how to join. There’s a 2D “virtual reality” experience available, but it’s unclear why you’d bother.


If you have a cable subscription, but would rather watch one of the cable networks on one of your devices, that’s an option as well. Let’s call these the “half-cord” options. All of these options require a cable subscription to login.


CNN Half-Cord

Fox News Half-Cord

Tonight’s debate will be moderated by NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt. It’s still unclear if Holt will “factcheck” either candidate in real time, or just sit there like a robot reading questions from a teleprompter, as some believe he should. It’s also still unclear what a “fact” is, if we’re to believe the media watchdog echo chamber.


Whatever happens tonight, may God have mercy on our souls.

Correction: This post originally misstated the Pacific Time start for the debate. As someone who lives in Los Angeles, I’m deeply ashamed. I’m also ashamed for making an error about the time.


Matt Novak is the editor of Gizmodo's Paleofuture blog

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If only there was a company that would broadly cast such events for free to the nation via our television sets. We could call it National Broadcasting Company.

BTW, since when is Pacific Time two hours behind Eastern?

“tonight at 9pm ET, 7pm PT”


“are deplored by 9pm ET, 7pm PT.”

First and last paragraphs, before “YouTube”