Eurovision’s New Dawn

Jan 17, 2013 by

Eurovision’s New Dawn

Today saw the ESC 2013 semi-final allocation draw in Malmo. With 6 automatic qualifiers for the final – UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and hosts Sweden – we have 33 entries competing in the 2 semi-finals. Details as follows:

Semi-final 1 – 16 participants (UK, Sweden, Italy voting)

1st half: Denmark, Croatia, Ukraine, The Netherlands, Austria, Slovenia, Estonia, Russia

2nd half: Lithuania, Serbia, Ireland, Belarus, Cyprus, FYR Montenegro, Belgium, Moldova

Semi-final 2 – 17 participants (France, Germany, Spain voting)

1st half: Latvia, Azerbaijan, Malta, Iceland, San Marino, Macedonia, Finland, Bulgaria

2nd half: Israel, Norway, Albania, Hungary, Switzerland, Georgia, Greece, Armenia, Romania

Brief early thoughts are that it is good news for Ireland with the UK voting in its semi-final, one less nation to battle it out with for qualification, and the potential of another advantageous late running order position – Ireland landing the pimp slot in its semi in the previous 2 years.

It is unfortunate again for The Netherlands to be lumbered with an early draw in semi-final 1, as it seeks to qualify for the final for the first time since 2004. Belarus might be deemed the ideal sort of uptempo tune to close semi-final 1:

Eurovision season is already well underway with 6 final songs known – Belarus, Albania, Switzerland, Lithuania, Ukraine, Belgium – and more on the way soon, with the Danish final a week on Saturday.

Of course, the biggest news this year surrounding Eurovision 2013 is TPTB deciding the running order of the 2 semi-finals and the final. So what exactly are the implications of this for ESC traders?

The official line is, they are doing this to make the shows more exciting and ensure all entries have the chance to stand out, preventing entries that are very similar ending up next to each other in the running order and thus risk cancelling each other out.

This used to be an integral part of semi-final and final draw analysis, so it is a shame this variable has been cancelled out for ESC traders, or rather, is in danger of being eroded away. Only last year there was a situation, for instance, in semi-final 2 of the solo female ballad of Croatia in 10 (Nina Badric, Nebo) following the solo female ballad of Slovenia in 9 (Eva Boto, Verjamen), with Loreen then arriving in 11, further stealing their thunder with the upbeat and visually captivating ‘Euphoria’.

Sat in the press centre in Baku it became clear that both Slovenia and Croatia would end up lost and forgotten and Slovenia was rightly called here as a great qualifying lay at 1.5. Under the new TPTB-dictated running order we will likely have slow, gentle ballads interspersed between rock tunes and more uptempo tracks. Who wins and who loses in this equation remains to be seen.

A natural conclusion to reach is that both semi-finals, and the final, are more likely to begin and end with songs that offer stand-out appeal. TPTB will surely want something decent, and impactful, to start proceedings and close out the night.

The way SVT handles the Melodifestivalen draws is perhaps the best insight as to how things will likely pan out in Malmo. At MF, you get a general pattern of songs drawn at the very start, and the very end, being the most impactful, and going on to do well in the competition. This is also, arguably, due to the fact they are invariably among the best tunes on offer. Some key findings after researching the last 3 MFs:

– In 2011, Eric Saade (‘Popular’) won his semi-final from the pimp slot.

– In 2012, Loreen (‘Euphoria’) won her semi-final from the pimp slot.

– In 2010, in the MF final, songs drawn 8, 9 and 10 (pimp slot) finished 2nd, 1st and 3rd. 4th place went to the song drawn in 1.

– In 2011, in the MF final, the song drawn in 10 (pimp slot) won (Eric Saade, ‘Popular’), the song drawn in 1 came 2nd (Danny Saucedo, ‘In The Club’).

– In 2012, in the MF final, the song drawn 10 (pimp slot) came 2nd (Danny Saucedo, ‘Amazing’), the song drawn in 1 came 4th (David Lungren, ‘Shout It Out’). Loreen (‘Euphoria’) won comfortably from the 6 draw.

Given the ease with which Loreen won her semi-final, and the heat around ‘Euphoria’ leading into the MF final last year, TPTB probably decided she did not need to be in the pimp slot to win the competition. Danny Saucedo’s ‘Amazing’ was an uptempo dance tune suited to being the show closer. David Lundgren’s ‘Shout It Out’ was another uptempo dance tune suited to being the show opener.

What is clear is we will no longer get a situation such as occurred at ESC 2012 when the wretched ‘Euro Neuro’ from Montenegro kicked off proceedings in semi-final 1. It is also unlikely TPTB would have selected the UK to begin last year’s final, though it is hard to imagine Humpy’s poor crooning of ‘Love Will Set You Free’ making much impact even if it was drawn among the last few songs.

Given the anti-diaspora trend observed in recent years at the ESC, we wonder whether TPTB will also now ensure none of the big voting powers in each semi-final are given advantageous late draws, so we won’t see a situation such as occurred at ESC 2011, and Greece in semi-final 1 landing the pimp slot of 19, which was one of the reasons it was picked out here as a great value e/w bet at 50-1 (Greece going on to win this semi-final).

The other element in all this is that TPTB will have all the vital public vote and jury vote data from the 2 semi-finals to hand ahead of framing the final’s running order, so will we see a clear TCO? While Jon Ola-Sand has gone on record as saying there is ‘no significant statistical impact of the running order on the result’ seasoned ESC traders know this is simply not the case, and a late draw can be a big advantage. It is worth a reminder of the last 10 ESC winners, and their draw positions in the final:

2003: Turkey (drawn 4 of 26)
2004: Ukraine (10 of 24)
2005: Greece (19 of 24)
2006: Finland (17 of 24)
2007: Serbia (17 of 24)
2008: Russia (24 of 25)
2009: Norway (20 of 25)
2010: Germany (22 of 25)
2011: Azerbaijan (19 of 25)
2012: Sweden (17 of 26)

It is hard to see how TPTB can magically create running orders that produce a level playing field and make it fair for all. This simply cannot be achieved and we will surely still get positions in the draw that favour some and disadvantage others.

It is interesting to speculate how the finals might have looked over the last 3 years, had TPTB been deciding the running order, and how much impact this might have had on the final result.

Something like maNga’s ‘We Could Be The Same’ (drawn 14, finished 2nd) might have been deemed the ideal opener in 2010, as might Romania’s entry, Paula Seling and Ovi’s ‘Playing With Fire’ (drawn 19, finished 3rd) which may have seen either fare slightly worse. Or they could have been deemed the perfect show closers, which would likely have pushed either closer to Lena’s Satellite (drawn 22), though not enough to get past her given she won so comfortably by 76pts.

In 2011, Eric Saade’s ‘Popular’ (drawn 7, finished 3rd) would have been the perfect opener or closer. If it had closed the show it might have got closer to the winner, Azerbaijan (drawn 19), and maybe even have won, given it only lost by 36pts and would surely have been significantly boosted on the televote.

Loreen won so easily in 2012, and won the jury vote by such a clear margin (123pts), it is hard to see how the meddling of TPTB with the running order would have changed the result. And a key point is, they surely wouldn’t have wanted to risk the classy Swedish entry being beaten by a crass novelty tune like Russia’s, and would have been keen to give Sweden a decent late slot, and bury the Russia entry early on, so in a way they got lucky with the way the draw panned out with Sweden landing the 17 slot, and Russia 6.

It is one thing to use an algorithm to create an order in which countries announce their results to try and maintain leaderboard suspense for as long as possible and the perception of a close final, but we doubt the EBU would wish to disadvantage quality entries in the final running order for the sake of a closer competition.

Our reading is that one or two of the lesser ESC nations may well get a bit of a leg up this year by way of a good draw, at least in their semi-finals. And come the final might we also see some bias towards the Big 5 nations (UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy) given they are the biggest financial contributors to the EBU?

It certainly will be a tricky balancing act for the EBU/SVT with accusations of favouritism likely to be flying around and you would have thought songs receiving early/late draws in the semis might be in line for a reversal in fortunes come the final, to at least give the impression of fairness.

Betting markets will be on tenterhooks awaiting the final running order as there is sure to be an excellent uptempo tune or three that will be the most likely contenders vying for the 1 draw or the 26 draw, and whichever lands the latter will be perceived as having an advantage, and the former a disadvantage.

Certainly if it is a close ESC this year, with no stand-out tune, it will all be in the hands of TPTB because the televoting differences based on running order in the final could prove the difference between winning and losing.

At this very early stage it feels like panning for gold checking out songs taking part in assorted national finals across Europe seeking that hidden ESC gem; that ‘Rybak’ that could already be lurking somewhere, and end up proving a runaway winner.

There is Melodifestivalen betting available on the high street and we will be running the rule over this event in the coming weeks. We also hope some bookies price up other major upcoming national selections such as Eesti Laul 2013 in Estonia, the Dansk Melodi Grand Prix and Norway’s Melodi Grand Prix, the first semi-final of which is this Saturday.

Last year, in our first ESC post of the season, 5 songs were known and we went against the grain in suggesting Albania had great potential, and later advised it as a stand-out qualifying bet at Evens and an e/w bet in its semi-final at 66-1, where it went on to finish second.

This year, we are not quite so enthused by any of the first 6 songs, but it is a long and winding road to the finals and songs can improve over time. We will endeavour to post pretty much weekly on ESC 2013 between now and when rehearsals get underway in Malmo.

How do you see the new TPTB-chosen running orders changing things? Do you see some potential new trading angles or do you think this will muddy the waters? Are there any songs that have caught your eye yet? We’ll leave you with Lithuania’s entry, which sounds to us like a cross between The Killers and A-ha:

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  1. Rob

    Bookies have priced up Dansk Melodi Grand Prix & Melodi Grand Prix semi 1 (which is tomorrow night).

    Early thoughts: fav in Denmark certainly looks worth opposing. Seems to be fav based on leading the tv site’s poll, found here:

    Having heard snippets of songs in Norway, unconvinced by Datarock & Gromth og Emil Solli Tangen.

    Unibet price Tom Hugo at 1.25 to qualify (to be in the top 3, out of 7). Betsson have him at Evens. Would be looking towards him, & possibly Carina Dahl qualifying. Seems an open semi.

    • Rob

      Scrap Carina, Julie Bergan amazing value to qualify at 9-2 with Betsson.

      11. Julie Bergan
      25. Carina Dahl
      31. Datarock
      44. Tom Hugo
      48. Mimi Blix
      60. Gromth feat. Emil Solli-Tangen
      75. Vidar Busk

      • Rob

        Vidar Busk, Datarock & Gromth through from semi 1 – strange choices to my UK ears. Welcome to ESC national qualifier season 🙂

        Doubt we have seen the Norwegian winner among these 3.

      • Boki

        Rob, it’s nice you also cover those pre-esc things. I didn’t want to comment before the semi since I can’t place bets anymore with nordic bookies (in my view it’s not fair to agree/disagree without actually putting my money on it). But for the record, I would agree with Julie Bergan’s amazing pricing, I expected to see her in top3 based on the iTunes.
        Unfortunately it seems not to be such a sign anymore, couple of years ago it was much more accurate (I was involved back then). It’s less predictable these days (even to call it strange) and I’m glad to stay away.
        With 3 esc car crashes after Rybak I wouldn’t be surprised that Norway chooses Gromth as a mix of protest vote and shock element 🙂

        • Rob

          Hi Boki. Thanks for posting. Julie B was definitely the value bet. Maybe the 3 female soloists cancelled each other out. The 3 qualifiers all had a clear niche vote base for their specific genres…?

          Can relate to your frustration regarding those firms who price up the Scandi qualifiers. A shame we don’t get more national ESC qualifiers priced up on BF. Sure they would attract money if they bothered to put in the effort.

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