Presidential debate 2016: How to watch and stream tonight


Facebook? Sure. Twitter? Yep. YouTube? Absolutely. And many other non-TV places as well, for free.

The first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump starts tonight at 9 pm ET, at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.

The 90-minute, commercial-free event will run on all four major broadcast networks — ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox — as well as cable news outlets like CNN and Fox News. You’ll also be able to stream free, live coverage of the debate on many digital platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Tonight’s face-off is the biggest political event of the year to date, and many pundits assume it will be the most-watched debate in history, with an audience bigger than the 80 million people who watched Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan debate in 1980.

One reason that the number may not be bigger is that it will be very, very easy to watch the debates without turning on your TV.*

Here’s a quick guide to some digital options, listed by platform and by network**:

YouTube: Free access to livestreams from networks including NBC News, PBS, Fox News, The Washington Post, Bloomberg, and Telemundo.

Facebook: Free steams, via Facebook Live, from news organizations including ABC News, C-SPAN, Fox News, PBS, the New York Times, CNBC, Telemundo, Univision and BuzzFeed. Not all of these streams will be the same ones you would see on TV. Fox News, for instance, is hosting a “live watch party,” which promises to include commentary from some of its on-air talent. The New York Times “will be drawing cartoons in a Facebook Live with a live audio stream of the debate.”

Twitter: Free streams of Bloomberg’s coverage will be available on Twitter’s apps, as well as Twitter’s site; users won’t need a Twitter password to watch.

CBS: Free streams via CBSN, the network’s digital outlet, available via CBSNews.com, apps on devices including Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Roku and Apple TV and mobile apps for Android and iOS.

ABC: In addition to Facebook, free streams via ABC News apps. Some pay TV customers can also watch on the ABC app.

NBC: In addition to YouTube, free streams via sites including NBCNews.com and MSNBC.com, as well as NBC News apps iOS, Android, Roku and other devices. Some pay TV customers will also be able to use the MSNBC mobile app.

Reuters: Free streaming coverage via the Reuters TV website and iOS and Android apps.

* Other counterarguments against the debates topping 80 million viewers include the fact that the debates are up against “Monday Night Football,” and that it’s not 1980, so there are many ways to spend your time instead of watching TV. Also: Many people don’t like Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, so they may want to do something other than watch them on TV.

** If you work at a platform or network and want to have your options listed here, feel free to reach me via email. But only if they’re about ways people can watch the debate. Thanks!

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