Eurovision 2017 Introduction

Eurovision on-season has begun. Albania kicked proceedings off choosing Lindita and ‘Bote’ – as always, we can expect a significant revamp. There may not be any more chosen songs to hand, but plenty of artists have already been internally selected. 43 countries take part, one more than last year. Portugal and Romania return, whilst Bosnia withdraw.

Today’s rumour, reported all over the Greek media, is that their national final will feature just one artist, Demy, singing three Kontopoulos compositions. The latter is the songwriter behind Eurovision podium finishers ‘You Are The Only One’ (Russia 2016), ‘Hold Me’ (Azerbaijan 2013), and ‘Shady Lady’ (Ukraine 2008).

It was thus no surprise to see Greece nibbled on the Betfair outright market today. Reassuringly, there is decent early betting activity. The next national finals are just over a week away – Gerogia and Belarus on January 20 – followed by an uncharacteristically early UK national final on January 27.

That gives us plenty to talk about already. You can expect the usual weekly round-ups, then coverage of pre-Eurorivison gigs, followed by rehearsals in Kiev leading up to the Grand Final on May 13. Do let us know your early thoughts below.

The Voice 2017 Discussion Thread

The Voice starts its new life on ITV at 8pm tonight, after five largely underwhelming outings on the BBC. When it was announced in November 2015 that ITV had acquired the rights to the show, there was speculation that it could replace the X Factor – but it’s since been confirmed that the X Factor will stagger on until at least 2019. To what extent sharing a channel will affect the evolution of either franchise remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, the Beeb are launching Let It Shine, a Graham Norton-fronted show featuring XF alums Gary Barlow and Dannii Minogue in casting a musical based on the songs of Take That. It’s currently unclear (reportedly including to Cowell’s lawyers) how exactly the format will work – but there are apparently live shows, so there might be something for bookmakers to price up.

If you’re watching either or both, do let us know what you reckon below.

CBB 2017 Discussion Thread

A happy new year to all Sofabettors. Tonight sees Celebrity Big Brother 2017 start on Channel 5. The line-up is yet to be confirmed at the time of posting. For those who are tuning in, please feel free to use this as a discussion thread.

X Factor 2016 Voting Stats: Was Matt Terry an Accidental Winner?

It turned into a frustrating season of X Factor: from about week 7, it’s felt difficult to read producers’ intentions. The market swings during last night’s show were unprecedented. And even now, with the stats to hand, it’s hard to be sure what producers intended to achieve over the final weekend. Broadly, two schools of thought have been advanced in the Sofabet comments.

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Continue reading X Factor 2016 Voting Stats: Was Matt Terry an Accidental Winner?

Matt Terry Wins The X Factor 2016

Producers, you win: if the aim of the last couple of weeks has been to keep punters guessing, you managed it right up to the moment of the reveal. Saara and Matt repeatedly traded places at the head of the market throughout the Sunday show, even though Dermot never mentioned the vote being close, as he surely would have done if it had been. Several astute observers in the Sofabet comments section were sure Saara was way ahead, others were confident that Matt had it in the bag.

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We’ve joked before about the comments to the winner’s single usually making it obvious what’s about to be released but this year – oddly – the final performance wasn’t the winner’s single, which meant Louis couldn’t helpfully observe “that sounds like a number one hit record”. Matt came into favouritism again after his song, then Saara after hers, then Matt again, then Saara, then Matt. It was insane – I’ve never seen anything like it. When the vote closed, Matt was trading at 1.66 and Saara at 2.48.

It’s not been a good series for me financially – I’ve ended up down on the outright this year, frustratingly so as I’d had a very healthy-looking book up to about three weeks ago. Now the wait begins for the highlight of the Sofabet X Factor year – the voting statistics. These normally pop up on xfactor.itv.com at some point during the evening, sometimes quickly, sometimes late [update: see them here]. We’ll digest them and post a review in due course. In the meantime, do commence the post-mortem in the comments below.

X Factor 2016 Final: Matt? Finnish?

In this most unpredictable of years, is there room for one final twist? It would be the ultimate irony if the prize ended up, after all, going to the act who seemed like Plan A throughout the audition stages but hasn’t had a single pimp slot in the live shows and was, this time last week, being dismissed as bland and compared to a butterless sandwich. Matt is now favourite on Betfair again.

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Matt was never going to win the battle of the homecoming VTs, with both Dermot and Simon calling attention to how that they’d never seen anything like Saara’s Helsinki welcome on the X Factor before – Matt’s Bromley homecoming VT was perfectly fine, with respectable crowds and the requisite familial tears, but the 10,000 people in Helsinki looked as stunning as expected.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the night, though, was how Nicole introduced Matt – “England, it’s your very own” – and how she pointedly said, in her comments to his first song, and making sure that she found the camera as she did so, “England, please get behind your very own”. If producers were on board with a Saara win, it’s surprising that was allowed to happen.

Continue reading X Factor 2016 Final: Matt? Finnish?

X Factor 2016 Final Preview: A Finn-Win Situation?

The X Factor final arrives on the back of a topsy-turvy few weeks. Unlike last year’s highly predictable final, it’s possible to make a case for any permutation this weekend. As always, watching the show will be vital in assessing producers’ hopes and the reality of the phone vote. Whilst judges comments tend to avoid any negativity, there have been some clear staging clues over the years, from the mess of Nick McDonald’s ‘Candy’ to Marcus Collins’ lonely ‘Last Christmas’.

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We don’t rule anything out this weekend, but there will be many more voters and votes cast this weekend, and the British sense of fair play tends to swing behind the most “deserving” winner. In terms of vocal and performing ability among the final three, that is Saara Aalto. Admittedly, Five After Midnight have the advantage of most producer favour based on semi-final evidence, and Matt Terry can claim to be the most Middle-England friendly finalist. But the Finn is the most likely to have won the quarter-final and semi-final phone vote, and producers may feel that her underdog “journey” – bouncing back from early singoff appearances to win over an initially sceptical British public – is a feelgood narrative they can reconcile themselves to.

Continue reading X Factor 2016 Final Preview: A Finn-Win Situation?

X Factor 2016: 5AM’s Journey – From Brotherly Spats to Backing Tracks

The act with the most positive overall treatment goes into this weekend’s climax as outsiders. 5 After Midnight have been namechecked as finalists more than anyone else, and received the most endorsements from stars guesting on the Sunday show. We’ve consistently been encouraged to emotionally connect with Jordan, Kieran and Nathan – and their families – more than we have with either Matt or Saara.

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But their relative lack of support in the betting market reflects another inconvenient reality: their vocal capabilities have been under question from the beginning, with only frontman Kieran able to hold a solo of any significance. Just how noticeable that’s been is down to the backing track, which has occasionally drowned out the boys’ voices. There’s been no acknowledgement of that in the judges’ critique, but the public were unconvinced enough to put the trio in the bottom two in week 8.

Which makes it all the more amusing to look back at how they introduced themselves at auditions: “We all love the same type of music,” explains Kieran. “Those big vocals, vocal acrobatics.”

Continue reading X Factor 2016: 5AM’s Journey – From Brotherly Spats to Backing Tracks