Quick thoughts on the 2016 non-draw

Mere hours before the final tranche of tickets for this year’s Eurovision go on sale (good luck punters; use multiple browsers!), we have learned the dreadful “producer-led” draw for this year’s two semi-finals:

Slot Country Country
1  Finland  Latvia
2  Greece  Poland
3  Moldova   Switzerland
4  Hungary  Israel
5  Croatia  Belarus
6  Netherlands  Serbia
7  Armenia  Ireland
8  San Marino  Macedonia
9  Russia  Lithuania
10  Czech Republic  Australia
11  Cyprus  Slovenia
12  Austria  Romania
13  Estonia  Bulgaria
14  Azerbaijan  Denmark
15  Montenegro  Ukraine
16  Iceland  Norway
17  Bosnia and Herzegovina  Georgia
18  Malta  Albania
19  –  Belgium

All of our objections about this system—which is open to claims of bias when considered against the previous, wholly randomized draw—remain. It is what it is, however.

For semi-final one, Russia, Bosnia, Iceland and Malta should be very happy; in the second semi-final, Lithuania, Georgia, Albania and Belgium should be too. Pre-Stockholm favourite Russia is in the slot before the ad break. The last three slots in a semi-final are fertile ground for entries to qualify—easily or marginally—or for pushing seemingly unremarkable entries to near the top of the semi-final league table in the absence of earlier “wow” entries.  2016 might prove to be just such a year.

And if you think order of performance in the semi-finals unimportant, ask the Dutch delegation from 2014: they would not have got an ideal slot in the Grand Final had they not won their semi-final. Do well in the semi-final and the producers will try to find you a great slot. And you can assume that the entries given awesome slots in the Grand Final did very, very well in their semi-final, hint hint.

The Greeks, Moldovans and Czechs (first semi-final) and Latvians, Poles, Swiss and Israelis probably do not have happy faces this morning. Opening a semi-final can be good or not—but it doesn’t signify producers seeing you as a potential winner. Generally, the lump of entries immediately after the opening struggle to stick in viewers’ minds come voting time

If you have been focused on the question of qualification—rather than whether an entry can win the entire Contest—read on.

Qualification, not Victory

Amongst many hardcore ESC fans, there seems to be a consensus that 2016 is a somewhat flat year: flat, not poor. There are a lot of worthy entries, but no obvious ones that will certainly end up at the top of the leaderboard. Last year many of the entries expected to do well did—in terms of ordinal rankings—did exactly that. But the top three entries – Sweden, Russia and Italy—hoovered up a disproportionate amount of the total votes on offer, skewing the scores for the rest of the Grand Final top 10. That does not seem likely for 2016.

We also have a new scoring system with which to contend. Rather than a combined/blended televote/jury allocation, each component stands on its own. Previously the televotes were weighted slightly more important.

If this is a year with a range of songs competing for a narrow victory, expect the winner to be:

  • An entry that is wildly popular either with jurors or televoters, but has only solid support from the other scoring component, or
  • An entry with relatively equal, substantive support from both components that, when combined, push its overall score higher.

We will offer more in-depth analyses of the semi-finals shortly. Good luck to those seeking tickets today!