ESPN Re-Ups Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest Rights, Unveils National Spelling Bee Coverage
By: Jason Dachman, Managing Editor
Friday, May 25, 2012 - 12:56 pm

While it may be the home of Monday Night Football and the BCS Championship Game, ESPN has not lost sight of the off-the-beaten-path events that the network was largely known for in its early infancy. On that note, ESPN announced this week that it had extended its exclusive rights deal for the Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest through 2017. In addition, the network unveiled its plans to provide 12 hours of live 2012 Scripps National Spelling Bee coverage.

Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest
The Hot Dog Eating Contest agreement with Major League Eating, in conjunction with Nathan’s Famous provides the network exclusive rights to televise a live, one-hour show of the event each year through 2017. The agreement is a five-year extension of an existing contract between the entities. Last year’s July 4th telecast set a viewership record with 1.95 million live viewers and nearly nine million viewers total on July 4, including two re-airs.

This year’s event will be televised live on ESPN on Wednesday, July 4, at 3 p.m. ET, and feature analysis from Paul Page and Major League Eating’s Richard Shea, with reporting by television host Renee Herlocker. The one-hour telecast will also include coverage of the Women’s Championship, live from Coney Island. George Shea, MLE chairman, will host the stage show for the historic contest, This year will be the ninth consecutive year ESPN has televised the event.

In addition to the ESPN telecast, the Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest will also be available on ESPN3, streaming live on WatchESPN, and will re-air at 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

Scripps National Spelling Bee Finals
ESPN platforms – ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN3 – will combine to present 12 hours live of the 2012 Scripps National Spelling Bee Finals from Washington, D.C. on May 30-31. This is ESPN’s 19th straight year of televising the Spelling Bee, and the second year every speller on stage will be featured on an ESPN network.

All preliminary rounds on Wednesday, May 30, beginning at 8 a.m. ET will be carried exclusively on ESPN3. Television coverage will begin on Thursday, May 31, at 10 a.m. with the semifinals on ESPN2, and conclude on ESPN at 8 p.m. with the Final. ESPN3, ESPN’s live multi-screen sports network, will also simulcast ESPN2 and ESPN’s telecasts.

Throughout the entire competition, ESPN3 will carry a second “Play Along” version, where fans have the option to view coverage without seeing the word so they can test their own spelling skills while they watch against the champion spellers.

SportsCenter anchor Sage Steele returns for the third year as host of the National Spelling Bee. Paul A. Loeffler, a former Bee finalist, returns as the TV word analyst. Samantha Steele, a college sports reporter for ESPN and the Longhorn Network, will make her Spelling Bee television debut as a reporter.

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