How to Watch the Final 2020 Presidential Debate

Here’s a quick guide to finding the right channels for the final presidential debate

This is gonna be good.

In the final presidential debate, President Donald Trump will face his challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden. It’s scheduled for Thursday, October 22 at Belmont University in Nashville, TN. Tune in at 9:00 p.m. (ET) for the verbal fireworks.

For this debate, most of us want to know how to tune in and what’s the easiest way to watch.

The bottom line up front is:

We recommend ABC, CBS, or NBC for the debate. You can watch those channels on virtually every satellite and cable TV provider and streaming service under the sun. Don’t have cable? No problem. Check out our guide to watching local channels without cable.

If you are a cord-cutter, we recommend Hulu + Live TV as the best streaming service for the presidential debate because it gives you easy access to all the local and national channels that will be broadcasting the debate.

Read on and we’ll cover all the broadcast channels available (quick tip: it is all of the major networks and news channels) and how to access those channels, plus the streaming options (there aren’t many) for watching the presidential debate.

Previous vice presidential debate

The vice presidential debate between current Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Kamala Harris took place Wednesday night, October 7, 2020, at 9 p.m. (ET). It was held at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

It was the first meeting between the two vice presidential candidates in a public forum. The debate was hosted by Susan Page, who is the Washington Bureau Chief at USA Today. She split the topics into ten segments over 90 minutes.

Previous presidential debate

The first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden took place at Case Western Reserve University on September 29, 2020, at 9 p.m. (ET). Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace hosted the debate.

What channels will show the presidential debate?

The short answer is all of the major networks will show the final 2020 presidential debate.

The longer answer is a little more complicated.

So you want to tune in to find out what the second-fiddle candidates have to say? As multiple outlets are reporting, the complete list of broadcast channels is:

  • ABC
  • CBS
  • NBC
  • Fox (and Fox News)
  • PBS
  • Telemundo
  • Univision
  • CNN
  • MSNBC
  • CSPAN

We’ll break down the apps in a moment and provide some tips on how to make sure you can access them, but know this: it’s a longer list than usual. In 2016, several debates were televised only on a news channel such as CNN or Fox News.

Another interesting note here is that we’re still at the stage in the development of live televised events where only the major networks—and not streaming platforms—are still broadcasting them. Which means you won’t find the debate on HBO Max or Netflix anytime soon.

How do I access the broadcast channels easily?

If you are the kind of person who moved on from local channels long ago and loves Netflix a little too much, this part is for you.

Best TV services for the presidential debate
ProviderMonthly priceConnection TypeAvailable channelsLearn more
YouTube TV$64.99*Streaming85View Plan
Hulu + Live TV$54.99$60.99*Streaming65View Plans
Sling$30$45Streaming50View Plans
DISH$59.99$94.99Satellite290View Plans
DIRECTV$64.99$134.99Satellite330View Plans
Xfinity TV$49.99$89.49^Cable220View Plans
Data effective 11/19/18. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
Data as of 11/19/18. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
* Data as of 11/19/18. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
For 24 months with a 2-year agreement and eAutoPay.
For 12 months with a 2-year contract, paperless bill, & autopay. Price increases for months 13-24.
^ For the first 12 months. Some packages require a 1-year contract.

It’s no secret that some viewers have abandoned local channels and the major networks. In fact, large pockets of the US are in a Netflix-only world. For example, one estimate suggests just over 44 million people now don’t have a cable television account.

Which is a bit problematic if you want to watch the debates. Live television access is still as viable today as it was decades ago because that is how certain major televised events take place … at least for now. (There’s no question Netflix could someday add live television feeds of their own and replace ABC and CBS altogether.)

For most viewers, we recommend ABC, CBS, or NBC for the debate.

The easiest way to access those channels to watch the debate is to sign up for either YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV, or Sling TV because you just visit the link above in the table, sign up, and get ready. If you’re not sold on any of these services, here’s our guide to streaming service and their live tv offerings.

For the streaming apps, Hulu + Live TV offers the fastest and easiest way to access local channels to watch the final presidential debate.

You might find the news channels are not as readily available with some providers. For example, sometimes Fox News disappears from DISH Network.

You can also sign up for Xfinity, DISH Network, or DIRECTV in time for the next presidential debates on October 15 and October 22. Cable packages might be daunting, but our guide breaks down the best packages and what channels you’ll get with them.

How can cord-cutters watch the presidential debate?

We were dissing on Netflix earlier about this, but if you do want to watch the presidential debate on your phone or tablet—because you don’t even own a television or use cable or satellite television, or maybe you live on an island somewhere with nothing but Wi-Fi and food—you can still watch the presidential debate via a mobile app.

The major network channels give you the most options for watching. They all offer apps for mobile devices, so just search the app store on your phone for your preferred news network. Apps are also available for cable and TV providers like DISH, DIRECTV, and Xfinity.

If all else fails, you can always use YouTube. There are free YouTube feeds for two of the major news channels we recommend, so a cord-cutter can watch the debate on ABC News here and CBS here.