Eurovision 2016 Semi-Final One: Crunching the Numbers

After a decent (nearly two months long) post-Eurovision break, here at we are ready to dust off our calculators and typewriters and reboot the site. That wee voice is once again whispering in the back of our heads “there are data, lots of data.” We certainly love our data. We will start our reboot with a look at this year’s first Semi-Final.

Note: in addition to the 18 participating acts, Spain, France and Sweden all voted in this year’s first semi-final.

A night of surprises

We won’t rehash our debrief about how our prediction model did. But we do note Greece (16th) lost its perfect qualification record, fan favourite Iceland ended up 14th, and Czechia broke their string of non-qualifications (8th). We had two entries with the same aggregate scores (Hungary and the Netherlands), but the higher televote score for Hungary placed Freddie 4th and Douwe Bob 5th. And then there’s San Marino…

Gabriela Gunčiková can thank the juries for Czechia’s 120 (out of 161) points: being the juries’ 4th favourite offset being only 12th with the general public. In the Grand Final, I Stand experienced the ignominy of null points, though it was only in the televote component. Conversely Estonia, whom many fans rather fancied ended up in last place: Jüri Pootsmann’s low ranking with both the public and jurors sealed his fate. Greta Salomé’s I Hear Them Calling was equally unpopular with everyone, earning a nearly identical score from juries and the public and 13th place from both.

Intriguing, but underdeveloped (Source: YouTube)

But we would argue the biggest surprise is that San Marino didn’t end up last; instead they were a (distant) 12th.  Rather fascinating, it was the public that propped up I Didn’t Know. Forty-nine of Serhat’s 68 points were from the public, enough to place him 11th.

Some fans seemed to quite like Play as a song without noticing how underprepared Jüri was for a global audience (he won the Estonian “Idols” franchise less than a year earlier. Some appreciated Gabriela’s amazing vocal ability without acknowledging I Stand is an unremarkable song. Some doubtless appreciated Greta from her previous appearance at the Eurovision without noticing that the staging was a bit naff and more than a bit derivative (hand shadow puppets, really?).

So perhaps the lessons here are, if you need to choose between:

  • An unremarkable song staged simply and a great singer,
  • A good song and an inexperienced singer, or
  • A good singer with a twee overall presentation

Go with the great singer and the unremarkable song staged simply. You won’t win the Eurovision, but you will probably not be entirely heartbroken either. Thanks to jurors who appreciate professional calibre performances.

A gap between the public and juries

Interestingly, the juries and public agreed as often about the entries they did not like (Moldova, Finland, Estonia, Greece, Iceland) as those they did (Russia, Armenia, Netherlands, Azerbaijan, Hungary, Cyprus). The new aggregate scoring system was designed to eliminate any inequity between the two scoring components.  Did it?

Somewhat. Sergey Lazarev handily won the televote and was a close second with jurors: You are the Only One would have been ranked first under either system. Malta was #1 with juries (155 points), but 9th with the public (54), qualification itself wasn’t a question. But Ira Losco ended up 3rd overall with a very skewed jury score: Walk on Water probably would’ve qualified around 6th or 7th under last year’s system. The scores and rankings across the two components varied for Armenia, the Netherlands, Azerbaijan, and Hungary, but being top 10 in both parts meant they were safe.

But the band around qualification was very interesting—especially for the ex-Yugoslav bloc. The juries had Montenegro a distant 10th (46 points), but the public slated Highway, ranking them 17th (14 points): too much of a gap to make up. Bosnia & Hercegovina were a solid 8th place (78 points) with the viewers, but the juries put them a distant 14th (26 points). On 104 points they ended up 11th, but fully 29 points behind lowest qualifier Croatia. Nina Kraljić’s jury/public point split was 80 (7th jury) and 53 (10th public) points. In other words, good jury and adequate public support put Lighthouse just over the line.


Lighthouse, Remixed (Source: YouTube)

So eight entries (Russia, Armenia, Malta, Hungary, the Netherlands, Azerbaijan, Cyprus and Croatia) were in both top 10s (Austria was second with the public but only 11th with juries). The only entry from the televote top 10 that did not qualify was Bosnia, with Czechia qualifying instead.

If it seems like the juries and the public were watching two different semi-finals…they were. But that’s how it always works: the juries vote during the second dress rehearsal, which is held 24 hours before the live semi-final. All  national jury members gather in a room with a private live feed of that rehearsal, complete their ballots. A highly confidential process…unless a jury member decides to live stream part of their jury deliberations via their (not so) smartphone.


Which is precisely what Russian juror Anastasia Stotskaya decided to do. She livestreamed her scoring sheet, part of the private rehearsal video feed, and a bit of the sort of nattering you might or might not expect from Eurovision jurors, all via Periscope. For several minutes. You can read more about the story here, and the official response from the EBU here.  Bottom line: Stotskaya’s semi-final one scores were ditched and so was she. The Russian broadcaster apologized to the Armenian and Dutch broadcasters (comments against these entries were included in the stream), and a replacement juror was used for the Grand Final.

Impact on the semi-final result? None…except the incident may have impacted some jurors’ scores for Russia in the Grand Final.

You Are the Only One was solidly in second with jurors (148 points; only 7 points behind Malta) in this semi-final. In the Grand Final, Sergey dropped to a distant 5th place (130 points). Interesting Malta’s Grand Final jury score was again one place ahead of Russia’s (4th) and 7 points higher (137 points).

It’s not unusual to have average jury scores to drop between a semi-final and Grand Final. But Russia’s average jury score dropping from 8.7 points to 3.17 points between Monday and Friday nights. Compared to Ukraine (7.9 points to 5.1 points) and Australia (11.1 points to 7.8 points), Sergey’s was more than halved! Might some jurors have punished Russia?

Here’s the data on all of Russia’s scores from countries that voted in the first semi-final and the Grand Final:


From Jury Points (SF1) Televote Points (SF1) Jury Points (GF) Televote Points (GF)
Azerbaijan 12 12 12 12
Bosnia & Herzegovina 8 7 5 6
Croatia 6 10 6 8
Cyprus 12 10 12 10
Czech Republic 8 10
Estonia 1 12 12
Finland 6 8 8
France 2 8 1 6
Greece 12 10 12 10
Hungary 10 10 10
Iceland 10 12 8 7
Malta 10 12 4 10
Moldova 12 10 7 12
Montenegro 8 10 8 10
San Marino 3 12 7 10
Spain 8 8 4 8
Sweden 12 8 6 8
The Netherlands 1 8 3


Table One: Comparison of Russian Semi-Final and Grand Final Points (“-“ indicates zero)

The Sammarese jury increased Russia’s score from 3 to 7 points. The Azeri, Croatian, Cypriot, Greek, and Montenegrin juries awarded Sergey the same score on both nights. One of the songwriters is Greek, so that’s not a complete surprise. There were slight drops from the Bosnian (8 to 5 points), Estonian (1 to zero), French (2 to 1), Icelandic (10 to 8), and Dutch (1 to zero) juries.

But Finland (6 points to zero), Hungary (10 points to zero), Malta (10 points to 4), Moldova (12 points to 7), Spain (8 points to 4) and Sweden (12 points to 6) all slashed their support for You Are the Only One. That’s 37 points lost. As there’s been no evidence of any technical issues between Monday and Friday either, aside from Grand Finals being much more competitive, what might explain this. Hmmm…

Talented guy (Source: YouTube)

The takeaways

The updated aggregate scoring systems has largely worked: when there’s a significant discrepancy between what the public and jurors like, it is still possible to qualify from a semi-final. Equally important, entries with higher levels of support from both sources are advantaged.

In previous years, a 18 song semi-final usually had a qualification cut-off score around 50-70 points: from this semi-final, the 10th qualifier’s score was 133, which averages out to 66.50 points. No change there. Croatia’s 10th place with televoters earned 53 points; Montenegro’s 10th place with juries only 46.

Coming up next: the second semi-final!