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How to Watch the Presidential Debates 2020: Schedule, Channels, and More

When is the next presidential debate? Check out our quick and easy guide to find out.

Update 10/20/20: Due to COVID-19 concerns, the presidential debate scheduled for October 15 was cancelled. The second, and final, presidential debate is still scheduled for October 22 at 9 p.m. EST.

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Election season is upon us (whether we like it or not), so it’s time to bone up on the candidates and throw some wild watch parties.

This guide will help you find out when the next presidential debate is and how to watch all the gaffes and takedowns that are sure to ensue.

Presidential debate schedule

There were supposed to be three presidential debates and one vice presidential debate in 2020, but the the Commission on Presidential Debates cancelled the second presidential debate on October 15 due to COVID-19 concerns.

As you can see below, the 2020 presidential debates will air live across the nation  at 9 p.m. eastern standard time (EST) on every major network.

2020 presidential debate dates, times, and channels

Swipe Left to See All →
Who's debating?Scheduled dateScheduled timeChannels
Biden vs. TrumpTuesday, September 299 p.m. ESTABC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, FOX News, NBC, and more
Harris vs. PenceWednesday, October 79 p.m. ESTABC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, FOX News, NBC, and more
Biden vs. TrumpThursday, October 229 p.m. ESTABC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, FOX News, NBC, and more

How to watch the presidential debate live

You can watch each presidential debate live on the Big Four networks (ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC) and some popular cable channels by streaming them on an app or watching them live on TV.

Pro tip: Watch all the 2020 presidential debates live for free by streaming them on Peacock or Pluto TV or using an HD antenna.

The same goes for the vice presidential debate on Wednesday, October 7, 2020, which will also be broadcast nationwide on the Big Four networks and several popular cable channels like CNN and FOX News.

So, no need to worry about scrambling for the right livestream or finding the exact channel on the clicker like you had to for the presidential primary debates (*moment of silence for all the Bernie Bros out there*).

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How to watch the 2020 presidential debates FAQ

When is the next presidential debate?

The next 2020 presidential debate is scheduled for Thursday, October 22 at 9 p.m. eastern standard time (EST).

What time is the presidential debate tonight?

Each 2020 presidential debate will start at 9 p.m. eastern standard time (EST). That translates to 8 p.m. central daylight time (CDT); 7 p.m. mountain standard time (MST); and 6 p.m. Pacific daylight time (PDT). 

What channel is the presidential debate on?

Each 2020 presidential debate will be broadcast on the following TV channels:

  • ABC
  • CBS
  • CNN
  • C-SPAN
  • FOX
  • FOX News
  • FOX Business
  • NBC

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Who’s Watching the Presidential Debates—and Who Isn’t

By Bill Frost, Staff Writer

Unless you’ve been blissfully sleeping through 2020, you’re probably aware that this is a presidential election year. In a matter of weeks, it’s time to Make America Vote Again (#MAVA—let’s get it trending).

But, before the main event on Tuesday, November 3, who’s watching the lead-up debates between the presidential candidates? CableTV.com polled 1,000 Americans to find out, and the resulting info also revealed their voting intentions (and lack thereof).

presidential-debate-survey

If you’re an invested follower of news and politics who’d sooner quit oxygen than Twitter, these are probably mystifying numbers to you—how do you not watch the debates? Or have no concrete voting strategy? Unfathomable.

While interest in national politics did bump up in 2016 (wonder why), most Americans seem to simply have other things to do. Get a dog or take up sourdough baking, and you might possibly find that they’re more rewarding than arguing online with bots and trolls, politicos.

The fact that half of the US watches the debates on cable or satellite TV is interesting, since the coverage is also widely available over old-fashioned broadcast (antenna) and new-fangled internet TV (livestreaming). No matter who the candidates are, CNN and FOX News will always be waging a (highly profitable) ratings war.

Here are some other interesting findings from our presidential debates survey:

  • 24% of those aged 35–44 don’t watch presidential debates at all, making them the largest disengaged demographic.
  • 5% of all surveyed watch the debates, in full or as clips, after the fact on YouTube. Only 1.2% get their debate coverage from late-night talk shows—sorry, Trevor Noah and Stephen Colbert.
  • 13% of those aged 45–54 don’t know where or how to watch the presidential debates. We’ve done our part to help with finding the debates on TV, at least.
  • 21% of all surveyed get their news from Fox News, followed closely by CNN at 19.7%. NPR trails at a distant 5.2%.
  • 17% of those aged 18–24 aren’t going to vote in the 2020 presidential election, the biggest age group sitting this political cycle out.
  • 77% of all surveyed did vote in the previous US election—a democratically heartening number.

There is only one more presidential debate scheduled before Election Day and, if it actually happens, there’s obviously going to be an audience. For those of you who won’t be tuning in, scratch your doggo for us and maybe send over a sourdough loaf.

Presidential debate survey methodology

CableTV.com surveyed 1,000 Americans aged 18 and over via Pollfish, asking them a variety of questions about the presidential debates.

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