Eurovision 2014: Five reasons to be cheerful

There’s an air of pessimism among many seasoned Eurovision punters in the build-up to this year’s contest. It’s a weak year, goes the refrain; liquidity is poor on Betfair; bookies have been slow to price up. In a glum assessment, Rob at entertainmentodds.com blames the emergence of sites like his and this one over the last few years for making punters more clued-up and bookies more cautious, and suggests “it would be better for everyone if we returned to a situation pre-2009 when it was all kept behind closed doors”.

I have to respectfully disagree with Rob there. Every year I’m grateful anew for the opportunity on Sofabet to test my theories and engage in debate below the line with our incredibly insightful and unfailingly good-humoured community of commenters. I similarly enjoy the opportunity to read Rob’s detailed thoughts, along with Gavster’s sterling work over at esctips.com (their latest podcast is just out). I’m looking forward to watching rehearsals in the press centre with Gav and Rob, and sharing our respective impressions.

I do understand the pessimism about the slow build-up of this year’s market – it’s hard to believe that in the past, by Easter, I have had liabilities of £20,000 on just one entry qualifying. But new markets are being priced up; liquidity is slowly improving; I actually don’t think this year is as weak as many are making out; and I think it’s possible – with a positive outlook – to find potential opportunities. In an effort to provide some inspiration, below I attempt to answer the question: what are this year’s reasons to be cheerful?

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London Eurovision Party 2014 review

The Eurovision circus came to London last night with a plethora of Sofabet commenters in attendance. To be honest, there wasn’t much we learnt that we didn’t glean from Amsterdam. Each of the 2014 acts here were also at the Dutch event a week before, with all the caveats mentioned at the start of that article. Points of difference are in the detail rather than the larger picture. Videos of last night’s performances can be found at the essential esckaz.com.

It was a better evening for Armenia’s Aram MP3, with none of the booing that marred his Amsterdam experience. This seemed to confirm a sense that the controversy over his disputed comments has passed. ‘Not Alone’ retains a powerful punch and Aram is a strong vocalist. It remains the most fascinating entry from a staging point of view, given its potential for a cinematic feel in Copenhagen.

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Britain's Got Talent 2014 Discussion Thread

Britain’s Got Talent has still got it; ratings for the first show in a new season were higher than ever. Our usual approach on Sofabet is to start writing posts during the semi-final week – when the running order and other classic Cowellian techniques, make abundantly clear who is being promoted.

There’s plenty of time for speculation before then though, and Sofabet commenters are invited to get involved in the discussion below. I’ll start the ball rolling by saying that I think Lucy Kay was the most interesting contestant in the opening show, which is when we saw eventual winners Attraction last year. Agree or disagree? Let us know.

Eurovision 2014: Who will be the market springers?

This article is not looking to predict positive surprises on the scoreboard come May 10, but rather positive surprises in the betting market by the day of the final. Which acts are longer odds now than they will be in a month?

This is a vital consideration for those looking to play the market as a trader. Traders back at longer odds and lay at shorter odds in the hope of guaranteeing a profit either way, or at least giving themselves a free run.

The market can move in mysterious ways, but there are perennial factors that influence it in the contest build-up. I consider some of them below as a way of speculating on the likeliest market springers.

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Eurovision in Concert 2014 review

I’ve explained before that you shouldn’t read too much into reviews of Eurovision in Concert. Singing to a group of drunken eurofans in a crowded nightclub is far removed from being in a big arena, watched on television by a Saturday-night audience of millions.

With that caveat in mind, the general standard felt pretty high last night. A series of strong performances stressed that this year is looking more open than the market currently suggests. That applies to and beyond hot favourite, Aram MP3′s ‘Not Alone’.

Sorting the acts into the order we’ll see them in Eurovision week means we start with Armenia, which is just as well, as it provided the night’s biggest talking point.

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The Voice 2014 Final

Guildo has done a great job covering the live shows up to this point, but due to other commitments has handed over the season finale to me.

It’s the same format as last year’s final. Each act will perform one new song, and a duet with their coach. After the first public vote the fourth placed contestant will drop out. The remaining three will then be given a chance to reprise a favourite performance from an earlier round before facing the final public vote.

Here’s my lowdown on the runners and riders.

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The semiotics of Eurovision

“I want to be this person”
“I want to be friends with this person”
“This person’s story inspires me”
“This person is cool”
“This performance reflects my values”
“I don’t like her, her styling is terrible”
“He reminds me of my schoolteacher/dad”
“I don’t like this, it’s too slutty”
“This is gay”

Viewers at home are not musical sophisticates. Their tastes are simple. And certainly in the case of Eurovision 2013, we can say this of the juries too.

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The Voice 2014 Semi-Final

Firstly, a quick reminder of last week’s show. The overwhelming winner of the quarter-finals was Christina. Her YouTube figures are dwarfing the other contestants (if that has value re the outcome). Plus the Ricky-Christina love-in is sweet, and far removed from the creepiness that lingered over the Danny-Bo Bruce relationship in series 1.

Christina was one of the fast pass beneficiaries, alongside Jermain, Jamie and Sally, all worthy recipients of this double-edged sword. However, the public-vote winners – Sophie, Lee, Bizzi and Chris – have as a result built active support.

The public-vote losers were Iesher, Rachael, Georgia and Emily – four girls who performed get-the-party-started numbers, marred by blaring accompaniment, overbearing colour-vomity sets and the overuse of dancers. A pattern of the casualty list was DBDTD – Death by Dance Troupe Distraction.

What about this week?

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