Behind The Scenes

SportsCenter:AM’s Kevin Negandhi debuts as host of the 2016 Scripps National Spelling Bee

The 89th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee finals air today (ESPN2, 10 a.m.–2 p.m. ET) and conclude tonight on ESPN (8–10 p.m.). Viewers can follow along on the Play-Along version throughout the day on ESPN3. SportsCenter:AM co-anchor Kevin Negandhi makes his hosting debut for the event, becoming the first Indian-American to host the National Spelling Bee.

Production Elements

New to this year’s Spelling Bee coverage on ESPN is the SpellCheck feature, which spells letter-by-letter on the screen along with the speller to confirm each correct letter or to highlight the letter in red once they get a word wrong, so viewers can visually follow along as participants spell.

This year’s Play-Along version on ESPN3 adds a fourth multiple-choice answer, still highlighting the word’s etymology, definition, pronunciation and part of speech, as well as live tweets, the speller’s bio and more.

“We’ve had a long line of prominent hosts and personalities throughout the years, including Robin Roberts, Tom Bergeron, Chris Harrison, Erin Andrews, Chris McKendry and Sage Steele,” said senior coordinating producer Ed Placey. “Even Mike & Mike came to Washington to cover the Bee for us in past years. As Kevin’s prominence continues to grow on our networks, we knew he’d be a good candidate to follow in those footsteps, so I asked to speak to him about it.

“We’re most interested in people who love the Bee,” Placey said. “Hearing Kevin’s exuberant reaction to finding out he was in consideration for the host role made us want him that much more. As an Indian-American broadcaster at an event that has come to mean so much to that community, it clearly meant a ton to Kevin and to his extended family to be asked to host. We loved that.”

Negandhi, who is the first Indian-American to anchor on a national sports network, couldn’t be more excited for the opportunity.

“As a fan who has watched this event yearly — rooting for the kids while trying to spell out the words myself — I’m thrilled and honored to be a part of the telecast and to help showcase these young, bright minds,” Negandhi said. “I’m joining a production crew that genuinely cares about the families and I can’t wait to share their remarkable stories.

“I take great pride in watching these young men and women successfully competing at the highest level, especially under a certain pressure publicly and personally,” he said. “At a very young age, my parents stressed the importance of education as being the key to every possible option in the world. Education opened doors for my father to get to America. I see all of those things when I watch these kids on stage with their parents willing them forward. I understand the pressure the kids put on themselves. I experience it with every word.”

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