If speedy hot dog consumption isn’t the sort of competition that typically glues you to the television, you might be wondering, “Who is this Nathan, and why is his contest so famous?” ESPN has had exclusive broadcasting rights to the contest for the past 20 years, but the competition itself boasts a much longer history.
The PR version of the story is that Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest began the very year that Nathan Handwerker and his wife Ida first opened a wiener stand in 1916 at Coney Island; the contest was, as legend goes, a way for a group of recent immigrants to see who was the most patriotic. However, that’s all a lot of marketing mythology. The true origins of the hot dog competition date back to 1967, still a respectably long history considering the contest has been held annually ever since. In 1997, the contest was officially sanctioned by the International Federation of Competitive Eating and Major League Eating.
So, when and where can you watch the action go down?
As mentioned, ESPN has the exclusive rights to broadcast the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest. This is the 20th consecutive year the competition will be aired on ESPN, and the network recently extended its deal with the International Federation of Competitive Eating to continue broadcasting the contest at least through 2029.
Here are the details on when to catch each leg of the competition:
- The broadcast will begin at 10:45 a.m. EST on July 4.
- Full coverage of the women’s competition will begin at 10:45 a.m. EST on ESPN3.
- The men’s competition will air at 12 p.m. EST on ESPN2.
- As the defending champions and the ones to watch, both the men’s champion Joey Chestnut and women’s champion Miki Sudo will have isolation cameras specifically focused on them on ESPN3. Sudo’s camera will begin at 11 a.m. EST, and Chestnut’s at 12:35 p.m. EST.
Although it’s pretty straightforward, the contest does have some strictly enforced official rules. Contestants have 10 minutes to eat as many hot dogs as they possibly can. Condiments can be used (but often aren’t). Beverages may be used to aid in hot dog consumption, as we’ve seen with the ol’ dunk-the-buns-in-Crystal-Light approach. Here’s the big one: If you throw up, you’re disqualified.
Currently, the reigning champ of the men’s side is the renowned Joey Chestnut, who ate 63 hot dogs in last year’s competition but broke all world records (including his own) by eating 76 hot dogs in 2021. On the women’s side of the competition, reigning eight-time champion Miki Sudo will be defending her title after eating 40 hot dogs last year. Sudo’s peak was 48.5 hot dogs consumed, a record she set in 2020.
Although the contest is annually held on America’s Independence Day, this competition brings together competitive eaters on an international scale, with contestants coming from England, Canada, South Korea, Japan, Brazil, and Australia to compete in the 2023 contest.
“The Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest is the crucible through which greatness is forged,” said Major League Eating Chair George Shea in ESPN’s press release. “On Independence Day 2023, we will once again celebrate the birth of this nation and the champion of the Fourth of July.”