The two candidates, Democrat Al Franken and Republican Mike McFadden, were just interviewed by two network correspondents for their town halls, which started at 9 p.m.
A panel discussion with Keith Olbermann and Chris Wallace, both Republican, will be on ABC at 8 p.m.
The debate will start at 9 p.m. Eastern time on NBC, and the actual debate will begin at 9:30 p.m. on MSNBC.
In this capsule of kickoff, the first two-hour debate will be streamed live on NBC’s website here. Then there will be a Town Hall on MTV at 7 p.m.
Live blogging of The Daily Show, Deadline Hollywood, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, CNBC, Univision, The Washington Post and The New York Times.
Also, Election 2016, now with John Dickerson at the controls at 8 p.m. on CBS
According to Elias, 3.9 million people watched the first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in July, which was entirely on Fox News. From then on, the debates between Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton broke ratings records. And from then on, neither Clinton nor Trump had another debate until now.
“The month of October just begins,” said Jeffrey Trachtenberg, director of the Institute for Public Policy Research at George Mason University, who has written on the psychology of political debates. “There’s a strong likelihood that everyone who watched it is tuning in.”