E.W. Scripps CEO: We’re committed to the Bee

Has E.W. Scripps ever considered getting out of the Spelling Bee business?

No, CEO Rich Boehne said in a phone interview. “Our commitment to the Bee is very strong.”

E.W. Scripps tweaked the Bee business model six years ago to take some financial pressure off newspapers that sponsor contestants, says Boehne. Up until 2007, newspapers paid Scripps an $880 sponsorship fee. That’s now taken care of by participating schools and Bee contestants. (Newspapers sending kids to the Bee still have travel, lodging and other expenses. I’m told that a paper can end up spending as much as $50,000 putting on a local Bee and getting behind a winning speller.)

“When I joined the organization [in 1991], we were almost 100% sponsored by newspapers,” says Bee executive director Paige Kimble. “Today it’s 63%.”
Who’s replacing newspapers?

“One notable growth area is in sponsorship by colleges and universities,” Bee PR manager Chris Kemper writes in an email. “In the last 5 years, 16 colleges and universities have signed on to serve as local spelling bee sponsors, including the University of Kentucky, Indiana University and Duke University.”

BEE FACTS: Nine newspapers partnered in 1925 to start the National Spelling Bee. … Scripps took over sponsorship in 1941. …The Bee – run as a nonprofit – has nine fulltime employees today. (“Six years ago we had only 2,” says the executive director.) …About 200 media credentials were given out this year. … The AP’s Joe White is considered “the Dean of the Bee Reporters”; he’s covered the competition for about eight consecutive years.