Eurovision 2015: Semi Allocation Draw and First Update

After today’s semi-final allocation draw, Eurovision season is properly underway. You can see which countries are in each semi-final here. 39 countries take part this year, which is two more than in 2014: Serbia, Cyprus and the Czech Republic return; Ukraine has withdrawn. That means 16 entrants in the first semi-final and 17 in the second semi-final, which should hopefully see a slight general improvement in qualifying odds.

Some early thoughts about the allocation draw are below, alongside an update of the entries chosen so far and what’s to come. This reflects a change to our traditional pre-rehearsal coverage. Instead of long-form pieces on the bookmakers’ contenders (which didn’t include initial outsiders Austria and the Netherlands last year), we will provide regular updates on all the most recently chosen entries and national finals of interest.

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Celebrity Big Brother 2015 Discussion Thread

Celebrity Big Brother starts tonight on Channel 5, and Sofabet commenters have already started discussing their speculative pre-series punts on rumoured contestants: stoney has gone for Marcus Collins at 7/1, while David is on Patsy Kensit. The line-up is officially confirmed in the launch show but there are usually spoilers beforehand. Do let us know your impressions in the comments below as the series unfolds.

X Factor 2014 Week-by-week Voting Statistics Analysis

As regular readers will know, we like to analyse the week-by-week voting statistics by converting them into a percentage of the mean vote available for each week. For example, in week 1, there were 16 acts so the mean vote is 6.25%. Andrea polled 19.2%, which equates to an impressive 307% of the mean. In week 9, there were four acts, so the mean vote is 25%. Andrea polled practically the same, 19.1%, but now this equates to only 76% of the mean.

Here are the full calculations. Unfortunately, the show decided not to release the freeze figures for the Saturday eliminations in weeks 4 and 7, so the figures for Jack and Only The Young respectively are skewed and we’re unable to work out what percentage of the vote came before and after the Saturday freeze. It’s probably not dissimilar to the final, when by our calculations, about 63% of the votes were cast after Andrea’s departure. Interestingly, the Ben:Fleur split was 57:43 before Andrea left, and 64:36 after.

What’s most remarkable is how steady Ben’s vote held. Pretty much every single week he was picking up roughly 130% of the mean, give or take a few percentage points. In other words, he was consistently gaining new fans each week, while Andrea never really expanded the base of support he took into the live shows – a testament to how firmly producers kept a lid on his appeal. We can show this in a graph, with Ben’s line looking impressively consistent, while Andrea’s is a nosedive interrupted only by his sympathy bounce in week 8:

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Ben Haenow wins the X Factor

In winning the X Factor from slot one in the running order, Ben has answered the question we posed about him a couple of weeks ago – it turns out he was more of a Matt Cardle than a Marcus Collins. I mentioned in my preview that I went into the weekend standing to win significantly more on Ben than Fleur, and I couldn’t resist going in further on Ben when comments to his winner’s single were along the lines of “that song was made for you, you can have a hit with that”, while for Fleur they were more “congratulations on getting to the final, whatever happens you’re a star”. Sofabet commenters read the runes correctly, too, as indeed did punters in general, as Ben rapidly shortened to as low as 1.15 on Betfair.

Now the wait begins for what, for many of us, is the highlight of the series – the revelation of the week-on-week percentages. In previous years the Xtra Factor has revealed the top two each week, together with opening envelopes revealing judges’ pre-lives predictions for who would win. The full stats have tended to appear on the website late at night.

How was tonight for you? Do keep the conversation going below.

X Factor 2014 Final: Second watch Sunday

What show did we watch last night, then? Was it the show in which producers are desperately trying to get Fleur to the victory? Or was it the show in which producers, reconciled to a Ben win, did everything they could to position Fleur for a postshow career and make sure she stayed above Andrea? We’ll find out tonight. In the meantime, here are some things that struck us on a second watch.

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X Factor 2014 Final Freeze: Arrivederci, Andrea

As the show opened, Ben was trading at 1.79 on Betfair, with Fleur available at 2.44. By the end of the opening group song with Take That, Fleur had come in to favourite. Announced in the pimp slot, with Ben in the coffin slot? Check. Standing in the middle of the three acts, the gold medal winner’s position on a podium? Check. Dressed in gold, flanked by Ben and Andrea both in black? Check. Singing with Gary Barlow while Ben got the one whose name nobody can remember? Check.

Ben’s first VT hilariously started with prominent shots of the VOTE FLEUR EAST bus. The rest of the VT, though, was as positive as homecomings get (with the possible fleeting exception of the “Ben’s other mate” caption, implying he has only two), with emotional family members and sizeable crowds. He started, worryingly, in a glass box but smashed his way out of it, Eric Saade style.¬†You could see staging red flags in the raised platform and cage if you wanted to, but you could also see it as high concept stuff with gold aplenty. Comments were positive enough, focusing on Ben being what the X Factor is all about.

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X Factor 2014 Final Preview: Star shines on Ben

Well, that put the cat amongst the pigeons. A “leak” in today’s Daily Star claiming that Ben took last week’s semi-final with 50% of the vote, ahead of Fleur on 22% and Andrea on 16%, saw a flip-flop at the top of the outright market.

Reaction in our comments section was equally febrile. Opinion was polarised, and it’s fair to say that Ben’s supporters were more willing to believe the story than Fleur’s backers. This is perfectly understandable on both sides – confirmation bias is strong at this stage of proceedings and your credulity will be based on how much you’re willing to believe such an outcome in the semi-final phone vote.

Full disclosure: at the time of writing, I have a reasonable green on Ben (for the uninitiated that means I make a profit in the event of him winning), a tiny green on Fleur, and a big red on Andrea taking the crown. I’ve generally been open minded on how to weigh my respective Ben/Fleur profits this weekend.

What’s the context to help us decide if we can trust the “leak”?

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X Factor 2014: Andrea's Journey - from Pug Lover to Pug Eater

When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s Faustini. Here at Sofabet we’re often accused of overanalysing the X Factor, but actually we suspect there’s probably a lot we don’t spot. This year we think we’ve noticed a new tactic. We think producers have been subliminally associating Andrea with the idea of a sickly excess of food.

We first noticed it with Simon’s “listening to you makes me feel like I’ve eaten six donuts” comments in week 3. Its latest manifestation was Simon’s comment to Andrea last Saturday, picking up on the scene in his VT in which Dermot had handed Andrea a pug in a pizza restaurant. “You didn’t eat the pug, did you?”


[All illustrations courtesy of Sofabet commenter Heisenberg]

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