I’m not really a big trader on Betfair, in the sense of someone who makes a bet with the intention of hedging it at an advantageously different price before the result is known. It’s a perfectly valid way of trying to make money that many manage successfully, but my bets are largely ones I want to take through to the outcome.
However, when it was officially announced that previous Eurovision winner Dima Bilan and one half of Tatu, Julia Volkova, would be duetting in the Russian national final, there was a small amount available to back Russia at 17.5 on Betfair which I took, knowing that this was the most likely Russian act and that their fame should ensure a much shorter price.
Sure enough, as the news spread, the odds came down to 7 or so. What Russia’s backers such as myself weren’t figuring before the national final was the victory of the Buranovskiye Babushki with their song ‘Party for Everybody’. So, having watched the show until the stream died and switched to Twitter to decipher the Cyrillic messages suggesting that the grannies had indeed won, I hedged my Russia bet at 9 for a small guaranteed profit either way.
Except the YouTube sensations are making headlines around Europe and are now just 6.4 in the Betfair win market. Which just goes to show, the market can make fools of us all. So just what are their chances?
There seems little doubt that this is an act which (a) many ordinary viewers all over Europe will find utterly charming, but (b) being a badly sung, completely outdated novelty entry, the juries will most likely ignore. Our shrewd set of commenters have been debating the implications of this, with eurovicious getting the ball rolling:
‘Purely theoretically, would it be possible for the Babushki to get a sufficiently high televote score that a low jury score couldn’t prevent them from winning? I’m thinking if they got between 5-8 points from most countries (so winning or being second in the televote but with a lower jury score). Can anyone answer this mathematically or does anyone have the means to work it out?’
Tpfkar showed that an average score of 5-8 points from every country would win in any ordinary year that didn’t contain a Rybak (and I’ve already explained I don’t think there’s one of those in this field).
The big ‘but’ is whether the Babushki can blitz the televote to such a degree. Remember coming first or second in either the televote or jury confers a small extra advantage by giving you two points difference over the next in line rather than just one. But if the Babushki are scoring 8s, 7s, 6s or lower from the televote, that combined with a low jury score brings overall scores down quite a bit – just how much depends on whether the juries are rewarding a similar set of other songs to televoters.
There are a few arguments to suggest eurovicious’s hypothetical scenario in the televote will not happen. Televote 12s or 10s will be harder to come by outside the bloc of ex-USSR countries (of which we have one less than usual without Armenia). To win most televoting polls means overcoming strong regional loyalties: Zeljko Joksimovic in the Balkans; Loreen, Tooji and Soluna in the Nordics. It would also mean overcoming Turkish and Greek diaspora in places like Belgium (not even Rybak managed that); the Romanians in Spain, and so on.
A look at two other recent successful entries that contained an element of novelty, both in the 100% televote era, suggests the limits to the grannies’ televote potential. In 2007 the wonderful Verka Serduchka finished second with 230 points for the Ukraine with ‘Dancing Lasha Tumbai‘. It received 10 or 12 points from just eight out of 42 countries, the only one of those not a typical ally being the Maltese dix points. In 2006, the masked Finnish rockers Lordi won with 292 points, but got 10 or 12 points from just 14 out of a possible 36 countries.
Even the non-novelty, record-breaking Rybak, who received 378 televote points in 2009, managed to only get just over half (22 out of 41) of the countries giving him a televote 10 or 12. This may still seem far from eurovicious’s theoretical scenario, but it actually represents the kind of televote amount the Babushki need to win, I think.
Rybak scored highly almost everywhere, and a rough calculation made by downgrading the Norwegian’s individual televote scores (this was the first and only time the EBU published such data in the new 50/50 jury/televote era) to take into account a very low or non-existent jury score gives me a figure of just over 250 points, which would probably be enough for victory.
So triumph for the grannies is not impossible; they just need to be as popular as Rybak.
But in my opinion this will not be the case. Although being a Russian entry means that the Babushki can rely on greater bloc voting than Rybak, Verka or Lordi could muster, these three put on a much more professional show and had much more of a song to back them up. Rybak’s landslide win was based on the merit of a near-perfect Eurovision package. Charming though the ineptitude of the grannies is, their performance is still a shambles, and this will count against them in the televote, as well as doing so much more obviously with the juries.
As a result, I don’t think they will match the televote exploits of Verka, let alone Rybak. Quite how well they will do in the public vote is hard to gauge, within what should be a comfortable top ten placing. It seems logical to think that it will be higher than last year’s seventh.
The grannies would need to be outdoing Lordi and matching Rybak in any televote to win Eurovision 2012 because of the juries. The juries were introduced for a couple of reasons, the main one being because diaspora and bloc voting had made the contest predictable and grossly unfair. But with the new 50/50 split, the organisers were also happy to hamper the chances of any future novelty success, and keep the contest credible.
In recent years, the juries have severely punished left-field entries such as Portugal last year and Lithuania in 2010, whilst tending to reward the more earnest numbers. In a word, they are killjoys, and I see no reason for them not to score the Babushki very meanly. Especially as Russia finished bottom of the jury vote last year, indicating that the juries of the former USSR nations have no interest in favouring the country.
So we could be looking at a top five placing in the televote and a bottom five placing in the jury vote. This set of circumstances wasn’t enough for Blue to finish in the top ten for the UK last year. It was a close run thing, though, and the Babushki have bloc voting on their side, and what promises to be the most memorable act of the night. That doesn’t encourage me to think that Russia will finish outside the top ten, though I wouldn’t rule it out completely. (In the still-embryonic top ten market on Betfair, Russia can currently be backed to small stakes at 1.28 and laid at 1.36.)
Ultimately, I would not be panicking if I was one of those people who had decided to max out my betting limits on ‘laying’ the grannies in the Betfair win market only to see their price continue to contract. Sure, the BBC News segments can give us the heartfelt backstory that the Babushki are hoping to rebuild the village church that Stalin had destroyed, and other press around Europe are similarly interested. But that won’t help them with the juries, and it doesn’t give them a Rybak-style Eurovision package for televoters either – which is what they need to pull off what would, admittedly, be a rather marvellous victory.
What do you think? Do let us know in the comments section below.