Behind The Scenes

Viewers can test their skills with enhanced ESPN3, WatchESPN coverage of Spelling Bee

ESPN3 and WatchESPN will offer enhanced Spelling Bee "Play-Along" coverage featuring information on each word, social media, the speller's bio and more.
ESPN3 and WatchESPN will offer enhanced Spelling Bee “Play-Along” coverage featuring information on each word, social media, the speller’s bio and more.

During the 88th Annual Scripps National Spelling Bee, viewers can follow the competition via a second multiple-choice “Play-Along” version that gives fans a one-in-three chance to pick the correct spelling.

The Spelling Bee Play-Along, available on ESPN3 and WatchESPN throughout the two-day competition (Wednesday, beginning at 8 a.m. ET, and Thursday), features the etymology of each word, definition, part of speech, a stream of live tweets, and the champion speller’s bio through on-screen informational boxes.

Senior coordinating producer Ed Placey, part of the creative team behind the Spelling Bee Play-Along, discussed the product with Front Row.

What inspired the Spelling Bee Play-Along?
Game shows have largely been the inspiration. “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire,” in particular with its natural intensity and interactive graphic experience that followed along with the action, inspired the graphics in our traditional event coverage and impacts our Spelling Bee Play-Along coverage. The addition of participatory elements is intended to further immerse viewers into the competition.

How did the learnings from last year’s edition inform what viewers would see on the Play-Along version this week?
ESPN3 gives us endless opportunities to explore new production approaches and techniques. With the champion spellers taking up to their allotted two minutes to spell words, we found that the Spelling Bee Play-Along keeps viewers further engaged as they watch the spellers go through their own unique processes in getting to the correct spelling.

Is the Play-Along production option the Spelling Bee’s equivalent of the “Megacast”?[Editor’s Note: Placey is a coordinating producer in charge of the multiple viewing options for the College Football Playoff “Megacast”.]
One added experience does not a “Megacast” make. Whether it’s one ESPN3 addition or a “Megacast” full of channel options, the exploration of new production approaches is gaining a lot of traction on many of our bigger events. The Scripps National Spelling Bee organization has not only been very supportive of our new concepts, but continues to provide us with some of their own resources to help get us there.

What are the major selling points of Spelling Bee Play-Along?
This year with the multiple choice addition, it allows average or even poor spellers – like many of us – to play along just as easily as very good spellers. The three choices for each word hopefully keep viewers more involved as the words get progressively more difficult in the later rounds of competition.

Note: The video below provides an example of ESPN3’s enhanced 2014 Spelling Bee coverage.

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