For the first time, Scripps will be broadcasting the semifinals and finals from Washington, D.C., on its Ion and Bounce over-the-air networks after years on cable with ESPN. ESPN sportscasters had been hosting the event.
“The selection of Mr. Burton as host aligns with the mission of the Scripps National Spelling Bee,” said Dr. J. Michael Durnil, executive director of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. “To have such a prominent advocate for children’s literacy involved in this special and unique competition is a perfect match. We have the same goals: to educate tomorrow’s leaders and build reading competency in all young people.”
Burton is well-known as the former host and executive producer of PBS’s Reading Rainbow and for starring as Kunta Kinte in the acclaimed television miniseries Roots and as Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge in the Star Trek: The Next Generation television series and film franchise.
Burton was a contender to replace Alex Trebek as the host of Jeopardy!. He didn’t get that gig, but is working with Hasbro to create a TV show based on Trivial Pursuit that he would host.
“Hosting the Scripps National Spelling Bee will be an honor,” Burton said. “Like a lot of folks, I look forward to the competition every year and am excited to be a part of this wonderful tradition that celebrates excellence.”
The Spelling Bee was launched in 1925 and had been televised by ESPN since 1994. ■
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Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.