#eurovision 2018 Grand Final Analysis

We have our winner.

But 2018 was not a landslide year. In fact, it was arguably the second flattest year (score-wise) of the semi-final era, after Azerbaijan’s win in 2011. Congratulations to Netta Barzilai and Israel. Toy is the 66th Eurovision Song Contest winning entry. This was Israel’s fourth ever victory, coming 20 years after Dana International’s Diva brought Israel their third title in Birmingham. And it was also third time lucky for Doron Medalie, who also wrote the 2015 and 2016 Israeli entries.

In a year with 40 or more entries, a 300 point score component (in either the jury or televote) is increasingly seen as a massive score. In recent years as many as two entries have managed to achieve that on one or both components. This year only one score component crossed that threshold this year; Israel in the televote. Austria topped the jury vote with 271 points.  But again we have a year where the juries and the public did not agree in terms of rankings.

Unambiguous, Unremarkable

Israel’s was a clear victory, but not an emphatic one as in 2012 and 2017, when one entry handily topped both the televote and jury scoreboards. Toy netted 529 total points, winning the televote and ranking third with juries. Israel’s entry had a mean aggregate score of 12.6 points per delegation. Netta’s televote mean was 7.55 points (an average placement of 4th) ; their jury mean was  5.05 points (an average jury placement of 6th). Placement-wise, landslide winners tend to have a mean placement of second or third.

Estonia was the only delegation that awarded Israel null points.

Congratulations also to Eleni Foureira and Cyprus. Fuego is by far the most successful Cypriot entry in Eurovision history, eclipsing three fifth place results in years past: Mono i agapi in 1982, Mana mou in 1997, and Stronger Every Minute in 2004.

Fuego scored 436 total points, ranking 2nd in the televote and 6th with juries. With an overall mean score of 10.38 points and televote and jury means of 6.02 (average placement of 5th) and 4.36 (average placement of 7th)  points, Fuego was consistently popular across the voting area.

No one blanked Cyprus; in fact, Fuego was the only entry to receive points from every delegation in 2018.

Our most improved award goes to Mikolas Josef from the Czech Republic. The Czech have earned multiple non-qualifications, to a first-ever qualification 9leading to a Grand Final televote null points) in 2016, followed by another non-qualification in 2017. In Lisbon Lie to Me finished fifth overall. The jurors only ranked Josef 15th, but the public had him 4th. Any of those rankings are a best-ever Czech result!

Jury versus public support

Jurors and the voting public only had two common top 5 entries:  Israel and Cyprus. Whilst their placement in the televote mirrored their overall fortunes (1st and second), juries had them third and fifth, respectively.

In the end Israel’s victory over Cyprus was by 93 points, achieved mostly in the televote, where Netta’s lead was 68 points over Eleni Foureira.  Third place Austria—who won the jury vote, but were only 13th with televoters—were 94 points behind Cyprus. Germany were a mere two points behind Austria, having been ranked 4th with juries and 6th with the public. Italy rounded out the top five ,32 points further back.

In 2018 the divergence between the jurors and the public are particularly stark. Here are the three top 10s, combined, jury and televote:

Overall Jury Televote
Israel Austria Israel
Cyprus Sweden Cyprus
Austria Israel Italy
Germany Germany Czech Republic
Italy Cyprus Denmark
Czech Republic Estonia Germany
Sweden Albania Ukraine
Estonia France Moldova
Denmark Bulgaria Estonia
Moldova Moldova Lithuania

The entries in bold are those that only appear in either the jury or televote top 10. Only 6 of this year’s top 10 were consensus top 10 entries across both scoring components—and their rankings were even less aligned.

Italy’s massive 249 televote score was third overall (and only 4 points behind Cyprus), though the juries had them 17th. Fifth overall is where Meta and Moro ended up.

Sweden were 2nd with juries and 23rd with the public: this is the widest divergence this year and one of the widest we have seen. Regardless Dance You Off remained 7th overall under the aggregate system. Denmark were 5th with the public, but only 21st with juries: still good enough for ninth overall.

Ukraine’s 8th place in the televote was offset by being last (26th) with juries. Thus, they ended up only 17th. France’s 8th with juries was undermined by being ranked 17th with the public: they finished 13th overall. Bulgaria’s 9th with juries combined with 14th with the public left them in 14th overall.

Lithuania were 11th with juries and 10th with the public, so 12th overall isn’t surprising. Ieva Zasimauskaite’s scores on the two components were also almost nearly identical (90 jury points; 91 televote points). Very, very balanced. When We’re Old just pips Skamp’s 2001 entry You’ve Got Style and becomes the third best-ever performing Lithuanian entry.

Mall’s 7th with juries was countervailed by being only 18th with the public: they finished 11th overall. This is the third best ever finish for Albania. Speaking of which…there were three acts featuring Albanian leads this year. Cyprus’s Eleni Foureira finished second, Italy’s Ermal Meta finished 5th and Albania’s own Eugent Bushpepa were 11th.  Albanians, they get the job done!

Selection method

The “best” way to select an entry for Eurovision success depends on your definition of success—and your resources as a broadcaster.

Among the 2018 overall the top five, two entries were internal selections: Cyprus (2nd) and Austria (3rd). Israel’s was a national final for artist with the song chosen internally. Interestingly, in the first round of the Israeli final, Netta was saved from relegation by the juries: the public had her last.

Conversely, of the bottom five Finland’s was also hybrid-internal selection. Though the artist was selected internally then a three song national final held. The rest were all chosen by national finals. So there is no obvious difference between the upper and lower echelons of the scoreboard, selection method-wise.

If we look at the internal selections in this year’s Grand Final, those entries ended up 2nd  (Cyprus), 3rd  (Austria), 14th (Bulgaria), 16th (Ireland), 18th (Netherlands), 20th (Australia) or 25th (Finland). That breaks in favour of qualification (all were from semi-finals, but also breaks towards the bottom half of the scoreboard. All of these delegations except Australia have inconsistent qualification records in the semi-final era.

If the goal is qualification—which it sometimes is for a country with a mixed qualification track record—an internal selection remains a viable strategy. If your goal is a top five result, based on 2018’s leaderboard your odds are also about the same (40 versus 60 per cent success rates) and ending up in the bottom five.

As for winning…in the combined televote and jury vote era (which began with the 2009 Moscow Contest), we have had one internally selected artist and song (Austria 2014), two national final artist selections with internal song selections (Azerbaijan 2011 and now Israel 2018), and seven national final winning entries. All of these were, in some fashion, combined selections with both a jury and a public element.

Pick your goal; align your selection accordingly.

Big Five Plus

As in recent years, the fortunes of the Big Five are no longer persistently tragic. Italy returning the Contest in particular lifts the Big Five stats yet again.

Both Germany and Italy made this year’s overall top 5. Spain and the UK were both in the bottom 5. France ended up almost exactly in the middle (13th) of the table. Hosts Let’s drill down a wee bit.

Juries had German Michael Schulte’s You Let Me Walk Alone  ranked 5th (204 points); he was 7th in the televote (136 points). Fourth overall is the best result to come out of a traditional German national final since 2004, when Max Mutzke’s Can’t Wait Until Tonight finished 8th overall in Istanbul, in a televote only year.

Italy’s thundering televote score of 249 points, was offset by juries only awarding them 59 points.  The detailed televote scores for Italy are interesting. Nearly the entire Scandi pot blanked Italy: Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Iceland and Ireland all awarded Italy null points. Finland gave Ermal Meta and Fabrizio Moro 6 points.

This is an archetypal example of bloc voting. Which is not the same thing as being a fixed or illicit vote: it is more indicative of a shared sense of cultural capital. Finland is the linguistic outlier in Scandinavia, so their voting patterns are often an outlier within the group. Jury-wise, the Scandis were no more appreciative of Non mi avete fatto niente: again, everyone except Finland blanked Italy.

The UK and Australia also blanked Italy in the televote. The UK and Ireland did with the juries. For those who have ever been curious why we don’t pay much attention to a purported anglosphere or Commonwealth voting bloc, just look at the scores Italy got from Cyprus (7 televote, 8 jury) and Malta (12 televote, 10 jury).

Most people on the ground in Lisbon seemed to assume—myself included—that  Non mi avete fatto niente would do well with juries, but perhaps less so with the public. The lyrical overlays in multiple languages? Nah, that won’t work. #bubblefail

Speaking of #bubblefail …most of us in Lisbon thought that Madame Monsieur had found that magical mélange of French style while being accessible enough. When the «merci, merci, je vais bien, merci» hand gesture worked in the jury final it seemed like an obvious top 10 result. Three years ago France perhaps would have been thrilled with a 13th overall. But expectations were high for Mercy.

Spain’s fortunes seemed week before they were assigned the dreaded 2nd slot in the draw performance order.  One excellent singer (Amaia), one good singer (Alfred) and a languid Disney ballad are not a recipe for Eurovision success in the 21st century. There was nothing of note here.

As for the UK, Surie’s performance having been derailed by the stage invader is terrible. The

BBC should have availed themselves of the ability to perform again at the end of the order. It would have been a low risk high reward decision. If Surie sang badly, most would have attributed to nerves. If she sang as well as she did in every single rehearsal that week, most would have been impressed by her gravitas and poise.  Even with the jury scores already in the can, Storms deserved a much higher placing.

Alas, Portugal were in last place, thanks to being second-to-last with both the public and the juries. Even in the venue the reaction to the home team was surprisingly muted. A lovely song, with a chilled-out vibe on stage will struggle to inspire votes.

Next year in Jerusalem Tel Aviv Haifa Israel

In the next few weeks we will know which city and venues will be used to host Eurovision 2019. Twice previously Israel hosted in Jerusalem, but the EBU seems to have effectively precluded that for next year’s shows. Tel Aviv seems the best choice, in terms of delegation and fan experiences. We shall see.

As for me us, next year in Auckland. On my chesterfield, surrounded by my our peeps, in a shared experience of joy, outrage and surprise.

The Eurovision, in other words.

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