By Steve Kabelowsky Contributing Columnist Published Oct 16, 2012 at 12:59 PM

When Barack Obama and Mitt Romney answer questions in tonight's town hall-style presidential debate, an entire global conversation will be taking place on what's called the second screen.

Whether a tablet, laptop or smart phone, people will be engaging with others on Twitter, Facebook and other social media outlets to immediately react to what the candidates say. The multitude of broadcast outlets airing the debate are seeking engagement with their audience too, proving to advertisers their potential to reach others through the second screen beyond the television.

During the coverage, the station's staff members will present hashtags – the pound symbol (#) – along with a phrase for people to use during the debate. Along the scroll on the bottom of the screen, some outlets will show the Twitter reactions from celebrities and political commentators. Other outlets may even offer a live stream of the coverage on their own website that will feature a real-time chat, allowing viewers to share their thoughts while they watch.

The national debates are not the only events broadcasters are counting on to tap into the second screen. Many first airings of dramas, comedies and reality shows often promote social media outlets or even offer their own apps to be used while the show airs.

Syfy network reality show "Faceoff" is one such reality show that features a Twitter chat with the #Faceoff hashtag during the show. The show will feature live chats with cast members during the show airings. Talk show host Conan O'Brien has a specific app called Team Coco to be used during the airing of his program on TBS. The app will reveal behind-the-scenes clips and links and also added information about the guests as the interviews air.

We can expect this trend to only continue to just about every new program produced. An estimate from an industry publication expected the social media-related TV business to expand to beyond $256 billion – yep, that's billion with a "b" – in the next five years. Smart TV builders, content providers and software engineers will be vying to ride the next big thing to get the largest part of the second-screen pie.

SPEAKING OF DEBATES: Prime-time specials abound from the cable news outlets, including the Fox News Channel, which will air "America's Election Headquarters: Presidential Debate" right before the debate starts around 8 p.m. locally. The Fox Business Network kicks off its coverage live from Hofstra University an hour earlier. CNN, MSNBC, PBS and others will have varying degrees of coverage with analysis and highlights to follow.

Locally, WISN-TV, WTMJ-TV, WITI-TV and WDJT-TV will provide coverage as well, and will lean on their respective network affiliates for their national perspective.

TWILIGHT: If you are a fan of the "Twilight" films, the people at Time Warner Cable have a sweepstakes you may be interested in. One grand prize winner will receive a three-day, two-night trip for two to Los Angeles, including air transportation and accommodations, two tickets to the red carpet premiere of "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2," plus a year of Time Warner Cable Digital TV and Broadband Internet service. The details for this and a number of other runner-up prizes can be found on Time Warner Cable's Facebook page.

Steve Kabelowsky Contributing Columnist

Media is bombarding us everywhere.

Instead of sheltering his brain from the onslaught, Steve embraces the news stories, entertainment, billboards, blogs, talk shows and everything in between.

The former writer, editor and producer in TV, radio, Web and newspapers, will be talking about what media does in our community and how it shapes who we are and what we do.