Next year, the Scripps National Spelling Bee will not be seen on an ESPN network for the first time in nearly three decades.
Per a release from Scripps on Wednesday, the Spelling Bee will be moving to the Scripps-owned ION and Bounce in 2022.
Among the reasons cited for the move: the abilities to attract a wider, more diverse audience and to spotlight more of the competitors’ stories.
“The Scripps National Spelling Bee is a beloved American treasure enjoyed by generations of participants and viewers annually. The time is right to bring the iconic competition back to broadcast television, the media platform accessible for free to nearly every American viewer across the country,” Scripps President and CEO Adam Symson said. “As the Bee’s viewership expands through the diverse and fast-growing audiences of ION and Bounce, it is better positioned to connect with the next generation of spellers watching along.”
Dr. J. Michael Durnil, executive director of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, said the Bee’s move to Scripps’ networks provides even greater opportunities to tell the stories of the talented spellers who ascend to the national competition.
“Now we will have a chance to share more of those inspiring stories with new viewers and the growing over-the-air and connected TV audiences,” he said.
This summer, the Spelling Bee semifinals and finals aired on ESPN2 in primetime, and were anchored by Kevin Negandhi.
I do understand the logic from Scripps – bringing the Bee back in-house gives them a lot more control over the broadcast, and also completely changes the potential audience. Without ESPN as a broadcast partner, it seems like fewer degenerate sports fans will tune in, for better or worse. There will probably also be less coverage from outlets treating the Bee like a sporting event, which could create a healthier overall atmosphere surrounding the event.
The 2022 Spelling Bee is scheduled for June 2nd.