How to Watch the 95th Scripps National Spelling Bee

For nearly 100 years, the Scripps National Spelling Bee has showcased the biggest words from the youngest lexicologists. The inaugural champion, 11-year-old Frank Neuhauser of Louisville, correctly spelled “gladiolus” to claim a prize of $500 at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.

The words have only gotten harder, the pressure greater and the national spotlight larger.

Of 231 competitors, about a dozen finalists have outmaneuvered their way to the finals, which begin at 8 p.m. Eastern time on Thursday on the Ion and Bounce networks and should run until about 10 p.m. The finals cap nearly a week of competition at the National Harbor, a resort and waterfront development in Maryland.

Many Americans grew familiar with the bee from its national broadcast on ESPN, where it expanded in popularity, viewership and pop culture over the past few decades. But that changed last year when the bee moved to Ion, a Scripps subsidiary, in the hopes of finding viewers beyond paid TV subscribers.

According to the bee, that bet worked: Viewership of the finals in 2022 was up 147 percent year over year and was seen by 7.5 million viewers — the largest television audience since 2015.

The New York Times, which has covered spelling bees for almost 150 years, will continue that tradition Thursday night, reporting live on the spellers’ stories and the words they face. Definitions will come from the contest’s dictionary partner, Merriam-Webster. The champion will take home more than $50,000 in cash and multiple reference works like a replica of the 1768 Encyclopaedia Britannica.

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