Eurovision Top Tip No.1: Drawn to a close

[Part of Daniel Gould‘s ten-part series of tips on Eurovision betting].

The impact of the draw on voting in the contest is hotly debated among Eurovision anoraks. That we can never know for sure just how much of a difference it makes means this argument will run and run.

The draw ‘hawks’, who play up its impact, hold on to certain beliefs: a later draw is best; better to be drawn just before a commercial break than just after; be different from the songs performed just before and after; if you’re a ballad, don’t get drawn first; and don’t whatever you do, be drawn second (no ESC winner has ever performed from this starting position).

Here is some more evidence they use to back up their claims: the last five winners have been drawn 19, 17, 17, 24, 20 out of 25; Bosnia dropped from second to third against the same opposition at the top of the leaderboard between semi and final when performing straight after the commercial break in 2006; virtually every year, more songs qualify from the latter half of the semis than the first half.

But the draw ‘doves’ make their own points: most of those winners did not win because of their draw; as proof, Turkey managed to win from 4 in the running order in 2003, Malta came second from number 3 in 2005. What this shows is that a good song can be recognised as such, no matter where it is drawn; whilst a bad song will get a bad result even if it is drawn last, of which there are many examples.

And, of course, there are plenty of other factors apart from draw and appeal of the song that come into play at Eurovision. Some of these, noticeably the impact of friendly voting, have been covered in other top tips articles.

There are other arguments to suggest the impact of the draw may be lessened in the future. The new 50/50 influence of the juries may be less draw-biased, and from 2010, voting phone lines are open from song 1, not from the end of all the performances.

But the draw ‘hawks’ can point to the fact that even though this system has already been in place during recent editions of the Junior Eurovision Song Contest, the even greater bias there towards songs at the end of the draw has largely continued, despite this and a 50/50 jury/televote system.

They will also try to discredit the argument about Turkey’s victory in 2004 by pointing out that this was the only year when the reprise was reversed, so that it ended with the song performed first. Sertab Erener’s number was thus one of the last seen among those clips

The debate will continue to rage. However, it does seem clear from public votes on other TV music events that the draw can make a significant difference. So, whilst I will concede to the ‘doves’ that a song has to stand on its own merits to a great extent, this is a clinching argument that makes me more of a draw ‘hawk’.

Classic Examples

There are some songs that have actually improved their position from the semi to the final with a better draw despite the stiffer competition they faced. Bulgaria 2006 and Ukraine 2004 spring to mind.

General Eurovision Advice

DO pay attention to the draw – know where the commercial breaks are (the main one is between 12 and 13 in the final), and think about how the song contrasts (or not) with those next to it in the running order

DON’T treat the draw as the be-all and end-all, there are many factors to take into account

5 comments to Eurovision Top Tip No.1: Drawn to a close

  • Emma

    Very interesting article! I’m an American, new to ESC, but I have to say, after watching last year’s contest, I can’t say I agree entirely with the hawks. Azerbaijan and Belgium did well for themselves and they performed early on. However, the top four were all in the second half, so they have a point. I remember Didrik, after finding out he was third, saying that the order didn’t matter anymore. Guess that was just wishful thinking.

    I am, however, skeptical about the commericials. I myself hosted a party with a few friends, simulating the Eurovision experience–we all represented coutries, watched the final off the website, and presented votes. The dinner break happened at the commercial break you mentioned–between TSGTM and Shine. When we voted, though, Shine was our winner. Then again, maybe you just can’t trust Americans (no one liked the second place song).

    What do you think about the commercial breaks? Do those really have as big an impact as people say they do?

    Oh, by the way–are you going to post odds on all the countries this year? I’d love to read Finland. I’ll be living there next year, so I’m hoping the victor this year will be from there or a neighboring country (my hopes are riding on Estonia, primarily). I’m not too confident in Finland, though. Thoughts?

  • Daniel

    Hi Emma, and welcome to Sofabet. A good song can do well from any draw, though it’s as well to remember that Azerbaijan has voting allies anyway and Belgium only came 14th with televoters. The commercial break is an interesting question and entirely speculative, of course. The impact could well be very minor indeed.
    As for Finland, I have it down as a pretty certain qualifier, so in my opinion it will be in Saturday’s final. It’s musically credible, sweetly performed and stands out without anything like it this year. The juries are likely going to lap it up.

  • David

    Does anyone remember between which song numbers the commercial breaks have been in previous years?

  • When you say Bulgaria 2006 here, do you mean 2007?

    I agree. Draw definitely plays a role and is not to be underestimated. This year’s first semi being a prime example – none of the first five songs qualified, even though they included expected qualifiers like Turkey, Armenia and Norway (maybe even Albania and Poland).

  • Physalis Franchetti

    Statistically, the disadvantage of going first compared to last can be shown to be approx. 2 places in the rankings for non-expert jury voting), approx. 6 places for televoting, and probably less than 2 places for expert jury voting. The effect is linear across running order, so a song performing in the middle would have disadvantages of approx. 1 place (non-expert jury) and approx. 3 places (televoting).

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