From mid-week to Saturday night: the Semi-Final to Grand Final #Eurovision trajectory

Around a hundred million people watched at least part of this year’s Grand Final. In fact, for many viewers the Saturday night show is the Eurovision Song Contest. However, most of the songs in a Grand Final have to earn their place through qualification from a semi-final—and only twice in the televote era has an automatic finalist won the title (Greece 2005 and Germany 2010).

She even did her hair for you (Source: YouTube/Eurovision)

Therefore, aside from appearing on Saturday, doing well in a semi-final is the greatest predictor of an entry’s chances of winning. Let’s look at the qualification journey and what the numbers tell us, specifically from 2017

We’ve already looked at the semi-final results in some detail. This article looks at the relationship between an entry’s semi-final performance and its Grand Final results: who had momentum, who kept it, and who exceeded their qualification result on Saturday? And any other intriguing bits.

Top to Top to Top

A comparison of the top 10 from each 2017 competition is interesting on its own, and a great place to start:

  Semi-Final One Semi-Final Two Grand Final
1st Portugal Bulgaria Portugal
2nd Moldova Hungary Bulgaria
3rd Sweden Israel Moldova
4th Belgium Netherlands Belgium
5th Cyprus Norway Sweden
6th Australia Romania Italy
7th Armenia Austria Romania
8th Azerbaijan Croatia Hungary
9th Poland Belarus Australia
10th Greece Denmark Norway

Half of the mid-week top 5 across both semi-finals placed in the Saturday night top 10, but all but one of the top 5 Grand Final entries were from the first semi-final. The Netherlands ended up 11th, but Cyprus tumbled down to 19th, which is why they are struckthrough. Of course, Israel’s tumble was of historic proportions: from 3rd in their semi-final (132 public, 75 jury points) to 23rd (5 public and 34 jury points).

To be fair, his vocal on Thursday was epic (Source: YouTube/Eurovision)

Hungary had the greatest fall within the top 10, from 2nd to 8th, followed by Norway’s tumble from 5th to 10th.

We recommend that the reference group move the semi-finals to Monday and Wednesday rather than Tuesday and Thursday. Let’s look at the dress rehearsal and live show schedules each year since the two semi-final system was introduced:

  Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
1500 Dress 1 Dress 3 Dress 1 Dress 3 Dress 1 Dress 3
2100 Dress 2 (J) Live Dress 2 (J) Live Dress 2 (J) Live

*J denotes the jury rehearsal, where half the aggregate scores are achieved

If an entry is allocated the later semi-final, it has to deliver on four consecutive nights: two jury shows and two live shows. With the greater promotion of ticket sales for the other two dress rehearsals (as “family” shows), there’s increasing pressure to “entertain” those crowds too. The qualifiers from the earlier (Tuesday) semi-final have the option of two days of vocal rest before Friday’s first dress rehearsal.

Moving each semi-final back a day would give all the qualifiers at least one day of vocal rest. Imri Ziv’s voice was stuffed by 20h on Saturday. It wasn’t fair to him, the Israeli delegation or the audience. Jacques Houdek also noticeably struggled on Saturday.

If we want artists with powerful voices singing vocally challenging songs, there needs to be more vocal rest for those competing in the second semi-final.