It's time to W-A-T-C-H the Scripps National Spelling Bee

Rubina Wiedemer, 14, of Portland, Oregon, at the 2024 Scripps National Spelling Bee
(Image credit: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

My fiance and I are frequent players of the New York Times Spelling Bee (not to brag, but we often get to "Genius" status, sometimes even without hints), but we humbly bow to the teenage spelling wizards who are competing in the 2024 Scripps National Spelling Bee. The NHL playoffs, NBA playoffs and French Open may be underway, but the National Spelling Bee is a competition like few others in the year and we're excited to watch. And so can you.

Starting Wednesday, May 29, the semifinals of the 2024 Scripps National Spelling Bee will air on the ION broadcast channel from 8-10 pm ET/PT. The finals will follow on Thursday, May 30, once again airing from 8-10 pm ET/PT. ION is available as part of most traditional pay-TV packages and is accessible over the air with TV antennas, but is also available through various streaming options, including DirecTV, Freevee, frndly, Fubo, Pluto TV, The Roku Channel, Tubi, YouTube TV and more.

The semifinals will be tape delayed for ION, but if you want to watch them live you can do so on ION Plus starting at 2:30 pm ET/11:30 am PT. ION Plus is available to watch for free if you have any of the platforms that also carry ION. The Spelling Bee finals will air live on ION May 30 (except for West Coast viewers).

The Scripps National Spelling Bee has been taking place since 1925. The contestants earn their way to the national competition by competing in their classroom, school and regional spelling bees. For the 2024 competition, 245 spellers qualified, ranging from 8 years old to 15. Each contestant is given their own word to spell within 90 seconds. They may ask for the definition, root of the word, its part of speech and clarify its pronunciation. If they correctly spell their word, they will move on to the next round, if they misspell their word they receive a ding and are eliminated. All contestants at the start of the round must spell a word, with the next round beginning with the players remaining after all have spelt a word.

Once we get to the finals, there are a few ways to determine a champion. If a speller is the only one to correctly spell their word correctly in a round, they are given a Championship Word, if they are correct in spelling it they win. If no players spell the word correctly in a round, then they all remain in the competition and a new round begins. 

The finals will aim to conclude within the two-hour broadcast window that ION has for it, which could lead to the Spelling Bee being decided in a Spell-Off. This would only occur if the broadcast reaches the one hour and 55 minute mark and one of these scenarios plays out: no champion has been declared and a championship round is not about to begin; a finals round ends but there is not enough time left for a full round allowing 90 seconds per speller; or a potential winning word is spelled incorrectly. If after a Spell-Off there is not a clear winner, then co-champions will be declared.

For more information on the Scripps National Spelling Bee, visit the official website.

Michael Balderston

Michael Balderston is a DC-based entertainment and assistant managing editor for What to Watch, who has previously written about the TV and movies with TV Technology, Awards Circuit and regional publications. Spending most of his time watching new movies at the theater or classics on TCM, some of Michael's favorite movies include Casablanca, Moulin Rouge!, Silence of the Lambs, Children of Men, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and Star Wars. On the TV side he enjoys Only Murders in the Building, Yellowstone, The Boys, Game of Thrones and is always up for a Seinfeld rerun. Follow on Letterboxd.