Eurovision 2013: What does the rule change mean for punters?

Back in November, Eurovision organisers the EBU shocked fans of the competition by revealing a significant change for 2013. The running order, previously sorted by drawing lots, would instead be decided by Swedish producers SVT – with the exception of the host country, whose slot will be managed the traditional way.

The stated reasoning behind this is to improve the televisual experience of the two semis and final. It’s designed to ensure there won’t be a repeat of the 2012 final, when the first five songs were downbeat numbers. The idea instead will be to provide a more varied run of songs.

Fans were not happy because the complete transparency and fairness that accompanied the old system has been sacrificed. But what are the implications for punters?

1. The need for greater patience

We won’t know things so soon. Previously, in mid-March we got the full semi running order and the slots of the automatic qualifiers in the final. However, last week we were told that the 2013 semi-final positions would be announced in April (though we do already know if each country is in the first or second half of each heat). As for the final, we won’t get the traditional drawing of lots straight after each semi. Which leads me to the next point.

2. More uncertainty

A draw by lot is a done thing, a human decision is open to tinkering. There are barely 16 hours from the end of the second semi to the first final dress rehearsal, during which time everyone involved will need a good night’s sleep. That’s very little time to agree on how the jigsaw is completed.

During Friday morning presumably, producers will put together a final running order and go to the EBU Reference Group (a kind of executive committee) for approval. A more interesting reaction may come from certain Heads of Delegation when they find out the news. I can’t believe that some won’t want to alter what has been decided. Will there be changes made at this point, around the time of the first final dress rehearsal, or will producers hold firm?

I’ve heard a good suggestion that perhaps lots can be drawn after the semis to decide whether countries go in the first or second half of the final, as has already been done for the semi. This gives producers less of a headache in those hours of decision-making and binds their hands to an extent that may placate a Head of Delegation who could otherwise be very unhappy at finding their country at number two in the running order (from where, famously, no entry has ever won).

But there is no official suggestion that this will happen. And what if an accident of the lots saw most of the downbeat songs in one half and upbeat songs in the other half? Unlike in previous years, we’ll just have to wait and see how this is all going to work and the amount of flexibility producers decide to give themselves.

3. Trying to read producers’ intentions

Punters will go into overdrive speculating about producers’ intentions. We can be confident that SVT will want to start with a fun, upbeat number, and they’ll want to end it that way too. They don’t need to be the biggest songs of their kind, however. If I were deciding the running order last year, I’d have opened with something like Moldova’s Pasha or Cyprus’s Ivi – two good alternatives for getting the party started.

It’s worth bearing in mind that SVT shouldn’t know what the semi results are (this is supposed to be the EBU’s secret). So there shouldn’t be any potential bias based on these.

But it’s also worth wondering if there may be bias based on other factors. Take Loreen, the heavily-hyped favourite last year. The Azerbaijani producers, if placed in the position of choosing, would surely have kept her till towards the end. Maybe they’d have done the same with the other most hyped entry, from the Russian grannies.

Will there be a bias towards any similarly hyped entry this year? Previously, ante-post traders could justifiably worry about the likes of Loreen or Rybak getting a horrible early draw. With hindsight, it wouldn’t have stopped either from winning. But for punters eyeing the vicissitudes of the Betfair market in the long-term, I’d personally be a little less worried about a very hot favourite getting a bad draw and drifting as a result.

Then there’s treatment of certain countries. Consider the ‘Big 5’ (the UK, Spain, Germany, France and Italy) who pay most towards the contest. Their participation in the contest is recognised as important. Does this mean continuing the favourable treatment they get as automatic qualifiers?

The same can be asked of individual nations. Take the contrasting cases of the Netherlands and Azerbaijan. Who are Swedish producers subconsciously likely to favour more if both are in the final: the liberal western European nation who pays more than most in participatory fees yet has failed to reach the final for nine years and has no voting allies; or the far-flung dictatorship who won in 2011, has never been out of the top ten and has many voting allies?

This kind of speculation became inevitable when the decision was taken to let producers decide. How much of it do you think is valid? Let us know your thoughts below.

23 comments to Eurovision 2013: What does the rule change mean for punters?

  • tpfkar

    I’d have started with Ukraine’s “Be My Guest” last year. Upbeat and visually arresting, and all the “Welcome, people” lyrics would have made a perfect show-opener.

    The key question is right at the end. If they’d done this last year and decided they loved their grannies, could they have put Loreen second and Russia on next to last? Probably too much of a gap to make a difference, but it does feel like the X Factor order being chosen by one of the contestants.

  • Dr Rich

    I’m sure people will have many different views on the reason given for the rule change. Hard to know what to make of it. Could one throw in a comparison to the handicapping system in horse racing? The ability to decide the running order to reduce the chance of another run away winner and ensure a more exciting show? Whatever view you take i’m sure there will be examples after the show to both support and count against each view.

  • Ben Cook

    I’m still astonished that they are actually doing this. It’s outrageous. There is no way you can do manually chose the order of the songs and not be accused of trying to rig the result.

    The rationale behind it makes no sense. It’s not like there is any evidence that tens of millions of people switch off if there are five boring songs on in a row. You can see from last year’s UK ratings that there was an (almost) steady climb in viewers from 8pm to 11pm. Once you’re tuned in you’re likely to stick with it.

    Unless they are given any specific instructions from the EBU, I doubt that the Big 5 and other Western countries will necessarily get special treatment. It’ll probably depend on the country that’s hosting. Expect to see Denmark and Norway get nice slots this year. Azerbaijan would have probably given the pimp slot to Turkey.

    Imagine the uproar if there are two big favourites – one, from the host’s friendly neighbour gets slot 24, and the other one from a country they’re not particularly keen on, gets slot 2. This really could happen under this system. And it’s just ridiculous.

  • Dr Rich

    Yes it is quite ridiculous when you think about it. This rule also gives the host country an unfair advantage. Wouldn’t it be only normal to give your main competitors a poor draw with the random chance you may get a good draw?

    From a punting viewpoint the only main difference is that we will act with more caution. When you place a bet in advance you know an element of chance exists with the draw. That element of chance still remains but the fact that it is now controlled by others will lead us to show more caution when placing bets in my view.

  • Sander

    The other day I was watching semifinal 1 of 2011 (don’t ask me why, but it still fascinates me that Norway did not Q and also Turkey and Armenia did not go to the final).

    Anyway, I noticed that the show was pretty balanced. Different music styles and not a lot of niche songs close to each other. I think the fact that the producers will now determine the running order won’t make much of a difference for the qualifiers. Songs now will stand out, and a popular song drawn in the first half still will qualify, and a bad song early on can be left out.

    In the finals however, I really think the draw can have a big impact but it’s all about the winner. And I think that it doesn’t matter where the producers put the favorites.
    Even if the producers won’t put the same kinds of songs next to each other, the favorites can still be drawn early on in the show. And if you compare it to the 2011 final, I think that Sweden could have been the televote winner if they were drawn later on in the show. In the combined results I still think that Azerbaijan would have won, but there was not a runaway winner this year.

    Also it seems to be me that Russia was more popular than Loreen this year because the televote result was nearly the same as Sweden’s result while they were drawn sixth. If the Granny’s would been drawn later on in the show, they could have won the televote result, but still Sweden would have won in the combined results I think.

    All in all I think the question is more about the combined results and if it is fair that a televote winner of the show is not the winner of the contest. But that never happened. So for the show and the winner I don’t care if the producers come up with their own running order. But for the top 5, and top 10 can make a big difference for the results and therefore I think this year could be really tricky for betting.

  • Boki

    I believe that some countries would do totally opposite than expected wrt assigning slots to neighbors. For example, Slovenian jury gave some very strange points last year in order to lessen the ex-yu countries who dominate on televote. In that way they showed their ‘neutrality’ while punishing songs which deserved some points at least. So I would expect if Slovenia hosts the contest that ex-yu would get poor slots. Have no idea what is Sweden going to do.

    Btw there is an Esc outright market on bf and bfred already.

  • Daniel

    Thanks for the info Boki, the Betfair market is obviously very low liquidity, but for anyone with a hunch those Betfred prices look interesting.

    I have just had my first Eurovision bet of the season. Having said I’d sit it out, I couldn’t resist the 5/1 being offered by bet365 for Mohamed and ‘Unbreakable’ to win Saturday night’s Danish final. Especially after reading this on the Danish broadcaster’s website tonight following the dress rehearsal (with thanks to Google Translate):

    “At least if you ask the audience that was present in the arena during Friday’s rehearsal… Vox pop has Mohamed Ali as the clear winner with 55 votes out of a total of 123, but he has two strong women close behind – Kate Hall with 19 votes and Simone with 13 votes.”

    What comes across in an arena and on screen can be two very different things, but 5/1 about a song that wins an audience vox pop with nearly three times the votes of its nearest rival?!

    • Boki

      I’m always suspicious on the rehearsal audience votes (based on MF experience), it can be biased to gay entries. Having said that, the info can’t be ignored, I had Mohamed as a cover for my 1st choice (Emmelie) but now I dutched them.

  • Daniel

    Here is the link with that all-important info on tonight’s Danish final:

  • DashBerlin

    After watching all of Denmarks entries now, I’m pretty sure they won’t be winning the whole thing

  • Dr Rich

    Enjoyed the Danish selection, really good show as Daniel suggested. Unlucky Daniel with your bet on Mohamed (he reminds me of Shane Ward). Quite enjoyed the winning song, can see it being fairly popular. The burning question is will there be any image change for the big day? By the way, the start of the song is exactly like the start of the Serbian entry form last year (when that guy with the long hair started playing)

    • Daniel

      Thanks Dr Rich. The best song and performance won on the night. It was a highly deserving winner, and the best option for Denmark in Malmo. ‘Only Teardrops’ definitely merits a standalone article analysing its chances in the big event.

      • Ben Cook

        I was underwhelmed with the studio version of Only Teardrops but I was totally captivated by Emmelie’s performance. She has that same star quality that Loreen, Lena and Alexander had. There’s just something about her. It’s a real contender in my opinion.

      • That’s a great result and profit, amazing she was available at 4’s and 5’s almost throughout. Could be worth backing as a back-to-lay bet, especially if the presentation is changed into making it more current, as it is already radio friendly. Could also pull an Iceland 2012 too though. Depends on how many jury-friendly songs make an appearance.

  • Dr Rich

    Ya I agree Ben, having first thought an image change would be in order I now feel that it adds to the mystical nature of the performance. People can get bored with the standard look, the messed up hair and dress creates more intrigue.

  • Tim B

    What do we reckon, could Denmark’s ‘Only Teardrops’ be the deemed suitable be the opening song in Semi-Final 1? It would certainly do better than Montengro’s ‘Euro Neuro’ fared last year 😀

  • Harrow

    Gay entries? The only MF semi I attended live had Melody Club winning the semi by a long way in the exit poll… and will Linda Bengtzing go DTG at 60/40 no matter how many times I walked through the voting door 😉 I would not trust exit polls too much, but definitely not blame it on the gays – I’d say the non-gays are more likely to be at the dress rehearsals!

    • Boki

      If I remember correctly, Neo was also tipped for a win in his heat but he barely went to 2nd chance.
      I didn’t want to ‘blame’ it on anyone but my impression was that the gay/straight proportion at dress rehearsals is simply higher than same proportion of general MF voters, but what do I know about Sweden? 🙂

  • The list of countries with a butterly theme is growing hahaaa

  • Tim B

    Valentina Monetta is representing San Marino again this year – UH EE UH OH OH!!! Does she wanna do better than before? Everybody is calling out for more!

    • Sander

      Haha she is a good singer but the song was weak. I think that even if she will sing a song with more quality this year, San Marino will fail again, just like in 2011. The jury could give a decent amount of points but there is just too much competition in semifinal 2. Azerbaijan, Armenia, Romania…. I highly doubt it that she will do better, but I am calling out for more 😛

  • Dan Harrow

    I’d say it’s probably lower… genrep is a great chance for Swedish families to attend the show 🙂 But then Swedish Saturday night televoters probably have a ‘gayer’ taste than those watching rehearsals live… and performances can come across much differently live than on TV! 🙂

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