Everywhere You Can Watch (or Stream) the 2016 Presidential Debates

By Jason Fitzpatrick on October 19th, 2016

Election season is upon us, and there’s no shortage of ways to watch the debates–traditional broadcast TV, online streaming options galore, and you can even see it in virtual reality.

Unlike the near-flaming-hoops you had to jump through to watch the 2016 Summer Olympics coverage this year, you can rest easy knowing that staying abreast of the current U.S. presidential race will be a complete walk in the park by comparison.

This election cycle’s presidential debates are, by far, the most widely broadcast debates to date and, unlike the primary debates, are available virtually everywhere. Here’s the full debate schedule for this fall, with links to debate guides from the hosting universities. Each debate will air at 9:00PM EST.

Here’s where you can catch all the action.

On TV: Traditional Like Apple Pie

If you’re watching from the within the United States, you can tune in to the debates on a wide variety of broadcast and cable television stations.

The debate will be broadcast, sans commercials, on the following U.S. networks, some of which don’t even require cable.

  • ABC
  • CBS
  • CNN
  • C-Span
  • Fox
  • Fox News
  • MSNBC
  • NBC
  • Univision

Check your the broadcast schedule of your station of choice for additional pre- and post-debate coverage.

Online: It’s the Next Wave, New Craze, But It’s Still Video to Me

In addition to traditional broadcast media, you can bet you’ll find the debates streamed nearly everywhere online. If you have a preferred platform, there’s a good chance the debate will be there.

You can watch the debate’s live stream at the following sources, direct link to the debate streaming source where available:

In addition to catching the coverage on the aforementioned social media platforms, you can also visit the follow websites, presented in alphabetical order, for live streaming coverage and commentary. Sites that typically require authentication for access to their broadcast video (like CNN.com) usually have relaxed the authentication requirement for the debates, so you can watch even if you don’t have cable.

In addition to watching the live coverage at any of the above websites on your computer, you can also watch it on a variety of mobile platforms, or sling it to your favorite streaming set-top box.

Here is a (non-exhaustive) list of some common devices and services you can load on them. Be forewarned that some apps require a companion cable subscription, and it’s unclear if the no-authentication-necessary bit that temporarily applies to the news websites also applies to their apps, so have a backup plan in case they don’t work.

  • Android TV: Download the app for ABC, CBS News, CNN, Fox, or Fox News.
  • Apple TV: Download the app for ABC, CBS News, CNN, Fox, Fox News, YouTube, or Twitter.
  • Chromecast: Cast the YouTube live stream of your choice.
  • Fire TV: Download the app for CBS, NBC, Youtube, or Twitter.
  • Roku: Roku supports YouTube Live via the YouTube app.

When in doubt, your safest bet for streaming devices is typically YouTube Live–check to see if your device supports it before the debate starts.

Virtual Reality: Presidential Debates, Cyberpunk Style

Finally, if you like to combine your nauseating politics with your nauseating virtual reality experiences, well then do we have a treat for you, baby. Starting in the fall of 2015 with some of the primary debates, NBC began offering the debates as virtual reality programming.

Apparently they used those early debates to refine their technique, and now you can enjoy full virtual reality debate coverage–including custom programming like recreation of New York City’s Rockefeller Plaza set up like an interactive political history exhibit–as long as you have a VR headset like the Oculus Rift, HTV Vive, Samsung Gear VR, or other device that supports the AltspaceVR software.


It’s never been easier to catch the U.S. presidential debates so if staying abreast of politics is your bag, you’ve got plenty of places to watch.

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 10/19/16
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