BGT 2015 voting statistics post-mortem

It felt like a curious series of Britain’s Got Talent. In the first two semi-finals, producers seemed keen to dampen down discussion of the significance of the running order by putting the most-pimped acts in the early parts of the show – five of the six podium finishers were among the first five of nine acts to perform, most untypically for BGT. In the last three semis, normal service was resumed, as five of the six acts who performed either last or second last finished in the top three – and the final was, again, won from the pimp slot. But the Monday and Tuesday shows had minimised any traction the running order might gain as a talking point.

It’s interesting that producers evidently felt this was something they needed to be concerned about. People sometimes ask us whether we think the kind of analysis of shows that takes place among the Sofabet community meaningfully changes the environment in which the shows have to operate, and we’re usually inclined to believe that it remains a niche enough pursuit for producers not to have to worry much about. But it’s hard to escape the conclusion that the running order decisions on Monday and Tuesday indicated some sensitivity that the knowing cynicism characteristic of this parish might penetrate far enough into the mainstream audience to affect the franchise.

The reveal of the voting statistics added to the sense that this was an untypical year.

None of the semi-final winners scored more than about a third of the vote in their heat. This contrasts sharply to previous recent years, when at least one act has typically grabbed the public imagination enough to storm to a convincing semi win. Last year Collabro got 62% of the vote in their heat (and every single semi-final winner won with more than 40%). In 2013, Richard and Adam garnered 66% and Attraction 59%. In 2012, Jonathan and Charlotte got 75% and Ashley and Pudsey 50%. In 2011,  Ronan Parke scored 61%.

This year, Jamie Raven’s 33% from the pimp slot was the handiest margin of victory – although it is fair to assume that Jules and Matisse would have beaten that handily with more help from the running order. They scored 29% in their semi having performed second of nine, only just edging out Old Men Grooving with 27% from the pimp slot. The margin between them in the final – Jules and Matisse (now in the pimp slot) scored 22%, Old Men Grooving (performing 9th of 12) got 10% – is an indication of just how much of an advantage performing late is in this show.

It’s always an interesting exercise to look at the semi-final votes and try to reverse-engineer what producers were thinking when they put together the running order for the final. Clearly, the late slot for Isaac Waddington (who only just scraped home in his semi ahead of Boyband and The Neales) was not because they wanted him to win, but because they knew he didn’t have a chance.

It seems clear with hindsight that when producers decided to put the two pre-show favourites – Côr Glanaethwy and Callum Scott – in the relatively early slots of 8th and 7th of 12 respectively, they will not have been expecting either to win from there. Even considering they performed only 5th of 9 in the first semi-final, Côr Glanaethwy’s 21% of the vote will surely have been seen as a disappointment. Producers will have seen Callum’s mere 25% after his pimp slot pimping in Friday’s semi as even less impressive.

While the margin was close in the final – Jules and Matisse beat Jamie Raven by only a couple of percentage points – it seems likely that producers will probably have expected the finishing order they got. If they’d wanted their first magician winner rather than their second dog, they would presumably not have given the dog the pimp slot.

Going into the week, most in the Sofabet comments assumed that Côr Glanaethwy were Plan A, having been featured in the historically-favoured first audition show and first semi-final. It’s possible that was the case, but that a disappointing vote in the semi-final led producers to decide it wasn’t worth the effort it would have taken to get them over the line.

As for Callum Scott – the other headline act from the first audition show, Simon’s golden buzzer and given every chance to make his mark with favourable treatment in the last semi-final – frankly, we could never understand producers’ apparent interest. He struck us as an inferior version of the kind of act they’d normally be trying to nobble on the X Factor in favour of someone more commercially viable.

How do you read producers’ intentions this year, with the benefit of hindsight informed by the statistics? Did they initially favour the choir but give up on them after the semi vote, or has Simon been hankering after another crack at making a movie starring a dog? Does the evident sensitivity about making things less obvious in the first couple of shows portend anything for this autumn’s X Factor? As ever, do let us know your views below.

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49 comments to BGT 2015 voting statistics post-mortem

  • Apleximus

    New commenter here, thanks for your coverage and great article. Just one question. If, as you rightly point out, they saw that Isaac had no chance of winning, from only just winning his semi, why do you think they gave him 11th/12 in the final running order rather than burying him early? Wouldn’t it have made more sense to give the penultimate act to one of the more favoured acts, ie Calum or the choir???

    • Because Calum and the choir weren’t the more favoured at the end. After seeing rehearsals on Saturday they produced it for the best show.

    • Hello Apleximus and welcome to Sofabet! I would guess that, as Henry says, by the time of the final they were thinking of Cor and Callum as acts that either couldn’t win it even with help, or maybe that didn’t deserve the help (I’d suspect there’s some element of testing in the BGT semis, whereby provisionally favoured acts have to prove themselves worthy of continued producer support by demonstrating their appeal to the voting public, and Cor and Callum didn’t). And then with the acts they’re not actively trying to either help or hinder, they base the running order on what they think will be the most watchable show.

      Also suspect there’s an element of it making the show more interesting if they can get viewers to think someone is a contender who they know actually isn’t (Simon made a comment to the effect that he thought Isaac could win) – it adds a little bit of suspense or surprise to the vote reveal.

  • I’m not sure Côr Glanaethwy’s 21% of the SF1 vote would have been considered that much of a disappointment considering their poor draw and song. Hallelujah was better but I think the producers realised by Saturday that they had more exiting acts and also the logistics and cost of catering for 167 people probably made them think someone else would be easier for the Royal Variety Performance.

    • Surely they’d have thought about the logistics before, Henry?

      I do think 21% would be seen as not great if they were being thought of as potential winners at that stage – compare e.g. The Neales, who did only slightly worse (17%) from a slightly worse position in the running order and, unlike Cor, were up against two hyped acts in the last two positions.

  • George

    can anyone remember the running order?

    I want to look at how strongly vote share correlated.

  • George

    i’ll get it off wiki

  • Alan

    I just got the impression that the powers that be were much more relaxed about who qualified and who won than they have appeared to have been in the past. I think they were genuinely confident that they had a good enough cross section of genuinely talented acts to ensure a good final and worthy winner whatever the outcome. And maybe they are aware that perceived favouritism actually damages the brand.

  • Score

    Something else possibly worth considering is if the introduction of free votes through the app had any effect. It’d probably didn’t really for X Factor but I suspect the semi finals at least for BGT have generally had quite low vote totals, so something like this could have had a bigger effect.

    I think the talent was pretty strong across the board this year, with no one particular front runner who could be commercially lucrative (Calum could be I guess but him winning wouldn’t really had much impact on that) so they were probably quite relaxed about it all. They seemed less harsh at the semis this year too, possibly as they were more confident about their lineup and also possibly as a reaction to criticism. The semifinals were criticised for being a bit rubbish last year too so maybe they decided it was more worthwhile to make a better show instead, rather than risk a potential ratings dent. It seems to have paid off as it rated really well this year, so possibly next year they’ll take a similar approach.

  • Jessica Hamby

    Ironically, given the suggestion that they want to avoid claims of manipulation, there is now an OFCOM investigation into Jules using a ringer to do the tightrope walk. It wasn’t Matisse.

    I wonder if the result might be changed, and if so, what will happen to bets?

  • Tom Ato

    No chance of the result being changed IMO, she included another dog in the semi finals and the 3 legged one in the final (that was a stroke of genius), it is all part of the act and if anything kudos to Jules for being able to put it all together and execute it brilliantly.

  • It seems to me that the producers’ interest in Calum was as a possible Olly Murs replacement. Olly’s been a solid million seller for four albums, but seems to be trending down slightly now. Calum certainly was good looking, similar age as Olly on XF, reasonably likable, and proved he could connect fairly strongly with a song during his audition. While not quite good enough in my opinion, he may have been the best of the solo vocal auditions this season.

    In fact, it’s recently come out that they apparently have – to my mild surprise – invested reasonably significantly in Ben Haenow, who has a similar lane. Now, perhaps that investment is just to avoid a sour taste in the public’s mouth. Last season I advocated for always paying the ~500k it would take to give any winner a real campaign, or if without any faith in the winner, just giving it to them in cash. The public want to feel that they’ve changed someone’s life, and just like Sofabet & co leak over into the public discourse, pop and reality show sites now tend to leak over information about who got jobbed after the show. Over here in the US, the most recent Idol and Voice winners got dropped with basically no investment before the next seasons of the show even started. While this was probably the correct call commercially, why watch the next season if I read on a blog that last season I spent weeks voting for someone to have a miserable 6 months that basically didn’t help them at all? It makes the process feel awful. Penny wise, pound foolish on the part of those shows’ producers.

    But all of that said, I think they genuinely may want to roll the dice looking for a new mid-20s male popstar a good few times. Worth bearing in mind as the next season of XF kicks off.

  • Guildo Horn Forever

    Only loosely followed BGT, catching bits and pieces of the “semis” as they featured on the main screen at work.

    Was unsurprised that the choir didn’t win as too many people on stage ultimately is a little overwhelming for a viewer. I’ve been in many shows where for instance a large cast set piece, while undeniably exhilarating (and gratifying for chorus members and non-principals), will lack identity. All flash mobs kind of look the same and people struggle to recall detail from mild euphoria / hysteria.

    Cowell tried his best with Stereo Kicks last XF but a combination of a lack of individual and group talent and 8 members in a boy band proved insurmountable.

    ‘8 Members In A Boy Band’ – there’s a Louis Walsh gag there somewhere.

    2009’s BGT’s Diversity broke the mould because you had 2 star focal points, with the rest there to provide background and support. Just go to any karaoke and listen to a bunch of rugby players on a night out and piss-up singing Bohemian Rhapsody!

    I’m guessing Cor lacked an actual star individual? And the thing is that a lot of crap individual vocals can be disguised in group vocals. A night out at a karaoke watching a group of pissed-up rugby players singing Bohemian Rhapsody confirms this.

    From what I saw, this BGT looked poor. Jules and Matisse (and whoever) didn’t seem to offer any improvement on Ashleigh and Pudsey; nor was Jamie Raven any better than Darcy Oake; and Callum was a bit meh at best.

    I wouldn’t have backed any of them, tbf.

    My favourite winning bet of this year was the widely available 9/2 I took on Stuart Bingham to beat Ronnie at the World Champs. Ronnie was virtually tipping Stuart to beat him before the match!

    Stuart, to my surprise, is still being underestimated. There’s a weird Joe Johnson parallel which seems to have assumed the status of common wisdom about Stuart’s future prospects.

    He’s a bit old (in modern snooker terms) and unattractive and that will continue to be reflected in the odds offered about him, imo.

    Talking of glamour being overestimated – I take it this is why Juventus is 5/1 to beat Barcelona in the CL tomorrow?

    Like Barcelona, Juve are looking to complete a treble by winning the Champion’s League. That Coppa Italia win over Lazio last month will have been massive for Juve, yet they go into the CL final tomorrow with no pressure on them – for example, Paddy Power are offering a headline 24/1 for Messi, Neymar and Suarez to all score in 90 mins.

    Plus, Juventus took out Ronaldo and co, another superstar
    Spanish side in the previous round, demonstrating they are unlikely to be overawed.

    Would have got stuck into the 5/1 on Juve but for the news that regular Juve CB, Chiellini, is injured and will miss the final.

    A pity, that.

    If Juve react by becoming more defensive then their best chances may come from free kicks? If so, Pirlo looks even better value, at 28/1, to score the 1st goal? I watched him in a Seria A match the other month where he scored one from 25 yards, drew a good save with another free kick, and hit the post with another!! I’d imagine he’s also the team’s penalty taker, too.

    • stoney

      Hi guildo. I managed to get stuck into bingham in the final when he took the lead for the first time in the match and got 13/10 on him which was lovely cos he rarely looked in doubt at any point age that. Up to the point late on where i thought he was about to crumble but pulled that beauty of a snooker on the yellow and took the marathon frame which was to be the crushing blow for murphy.
      With regard tonight. No other winner than messi and co

      • Guildo Horn Forever

        Hi Stoney, I had him at 2/1 in the final when it was about 8-8. Yeah, that marathon, late frame was key. Murphy had been on a winning run of frames previous to that, hadn’t he?

        Talking of not-aesthetically pleasing players who are routinely available at ridiculous prices. Stan Wawrinka is another one. On court, he looks like a fat Wayne Rooney impersonator trying his luck at tennis. The prices for him today were ridiculous. But I didn’t back him – instead concentrating on the 3-2 set scoreline. There was 16/1 available for Wawrinka and 8/1 for Djokovic. I should have done both but eventually plunged on 3-2 for Novak.

        Got a shock when I saw the 2-1 set score for Stan before! But it looks like Novak is going to dominate this 4th set to level.

        The reason I didn’t back Stan to win 3-2 was that I wasn’t on the net and the best available shop price was about 11/1 in favour of Stan! Wish ‘d bitten the bullet by doing both now…

        • stoney

          Stan wins 3-1 don’t think anyone saw that coming!

          • Guildo Horn Forever

            I agree, stoney – I would never back anyone to beat Novak 3-1 at anything.

            Bit annoyed at myself and at my limited internet access, as I remember when Stan lost the first set at the Australian to Novak, whereupon Stan’s price to win the match went out to 50/1! (He went on to win 3-2.) For a bundle of reasons I kicked myself at missing that; and so am a little irked to see that Stan touched 30s today, after losing the first set (yet again).

            More amusing still is that 2 years ago I had a substantial bet on Stan to win that year’s French Open at 250/1 (or possibly 150/1).

            Beginning to think that maybe the best betting strategy for me is to team up with a betting ideas partner? Like a lot of the best comedy series have been scripted by duos, maybe that’s the way forward towards optimum decision-making?

            If it wasn’t for this site (and others) I would have no-one to bounce betting ideas off. Irl, the only punting conversations I have are with unimaginative bores who believe betting on the likes of Eurovision and dance shows is ‘unmanly’ and ‘effeminate’.

            The drawbacks with talking on the internet for me are twofold: a) my textual verbosity makes me strident and blinkered; and b) it’s hard (almost counter-intuitive) to be completely open about your value betting ideas on public sites.

            Know what I mean?

  • Jessica Hamby

    8 members in a boy?


  • steve

    does anybody know where i can find the running order for the final of romanias got talent this friday?

  • Guildo Horn Forever

    Quick moan about Coral’s Live Chat facility: as in I never receive an answer to an enquiry

    There’s 2 rival offers on the Top Goalscorer for the Copa America. A read of the T&Cs confirms that Coral’s promotion is vastly superior to Betfair’s.

    I intended to pop a qualifying stake of £20 win on either Aguero (8/1) or Neymar (5/1) before finally deciding to plump for Falcao at a best industry price of 20/1. (Just a hunch bet!)

    But then the market disappears…all the while that the winner / top scorer (double result) market is still available!

    As far as I am aware, I think the Copa kicks off at just after midnight, our time, tonight?

    Coral Live Chat is an abyss into which you’re invited to throw questions. Pointless.

    • Guildo Horn Forever

      Finally got my bet on.

      Colombia are a risky proposition – they’re in the hottest group stage by a mile (along with Brazil) and are in the process of blooding a new defensive outfit.

      Brazil’s Neymar would have been a much more sensible bet. Brazil have everything to prove, have been playing well, and Neymar finished the Champion’s League campaign on the highest of highs, walloping in the goals in the tournament’s latter stages.

      But 20/1 for Falcao just proved irresistible – I suppose I’m really hopefully betting on a bit of a rerun of a Diego Forlán pattern!

  • stoney

    Rita Ora and Nick Grimshaw have been confirmed as the 2 new judges for the x factor. Grimshaw is he reason i stopped listening to radio 1. This could be the nail in the coffin for the show. Can’t see it lasting much longer

  • Alan

    Worse than that theres no Louis or Dermot to be TPTBs mouthpiece. This will be the first series Ive watched from a Sofabet perspective so really looking forward to see how it pans out.

  • stoney

    Anyone else on murray for Wimbledon. Hes the one to beat for me this year. 3/1 is much better value than the 5/4 for djokovic. Breezing through the queens final today, definitely looks good for a 2nd Wimbledon title

    • Jessica Hamby

      Do you not think Roger has one more major in him? He seems to have dominated the german grass court tournament.

      • stoney

        You can’t disregard him. I just think Andy is in a great position at the moment and will have a lot less pressure than when he 1st won it. I never fancied him to win it last year but got a feeling hell win it this year

        • Jessica Hamby

          Wawrinka has certainly taken Djoka’s aura of invincibility and Andy’s record against him on grass is excellent (not lost a set to him on grass). I agree that his prospects are very good. Might even put a few pence on him myself. I think a Roger / Andy final is likely (depending on the draw, of course). Roger loves the grass and Wimbledon is probably his best chance of another major.

  • stoney

    Thankfully im covered on the federer win. If he plays like he did yesterday he wins an 8th wimbledon crown. Will be almost a big support for fed from the home crowd tomorrow

  • It’s the Big Brother final tomorrow, but who’s going to win? I’ll start by saying I think it’s between Pieface and Joel.

    • It’s a really difficult one this year, especially picking between the Top 3. As most votes are cast tonight on the final night, it could way come down to the final edit, but beforehand I’m going to go for this finishing order;

      1. Pieface
      2. Joel
      3. Chloe
      4. Danny
      5. Nick
      6. Cristian

      Pieface backers shouldn’t feel too disheartened seeing him at a back price of 5.5 on Betfair. I remember Helen was at 17.0 on the morning of the final and Pricey was certainly trading higher than 5.5 at this point, just before she won.

  • Anyone been watching the BBC show Britain At The Bookies? Of interest was the shutting down of accounts of people who won too much.

    The first episode is on iPlayer and whilst it touches on Strictly betting it doesn’t explore the more lucrative X Factor or Eurovision markets.

  • Guildo Horn Forever

    Just want to highlight a decent offer available on the first race at York later today. There’s a few free bet token refund promotions to choose from but none of the other bookies can trump skyBET’s free bet token refund of up to £25 if your selection loses the 13.55 race at York.

    I’ve put £25 win on the nose of a 10 year old (which ran only last month) that nowadays only seems to win first time out – so I’m already researching on what to place my forthcoming token.

    Btw, this post was not sponsored by skyBET!

  • Peter Andre confirmed for Strictly. Just took the 9/2 at Betfair.

  • Donald

    When is the X Factor season kicking off on here? Two letters to watch out for L.. J… it seems.

  • stoney

    Hello all
    Hope everyone has had a good summer. Well with x factor kicking off next weekend the count down to xmas is about to begin. Sofabet aka the sleeping giant is about to come out of hibernation. Looking forward to the frantic 3 months of discussion and debate about to come 🙂

  • Alan

    love how the so-called shake-up has basically been limited to a change of presenter and of two judges, who’s roles we all know are strictly limited anyway. oh and judges houses will be live apparently. not exactly earth-shattering stuff. i do think with no louis on the panel though producers intentions mite be a little harder to guess.

    • stoney

      Live judges houses is good. Means no spoliers. Makes it much more interesting and means greater odds will be avaliable on a wider range of contestants for anyone willing to take a punt at that stage

      • Martin

        News out today that Cheryl has been “promoted” to executive producer. The lack of Louis worries me, he was always the one I’d look to for a more transparent view of producer intention – although entertainment wise he’d been stale for a while and Grimmy is pretty funny on Radio One, I’ll be keen to see how him and Rita get on. I didn’t care for her much on The Voice.

        I think the key message for the show so far is “fun” – every part of the press they’ve done has been pushing this idea that they’re refreshed, Cheryl is in a better place, Nick and Rita add a new “energy” and that generally they’re all having an absolute ball.

  • Dan

    Interesting article here on the One Direction “hiatus” –

    Just wondering what the likelihood of them trying to cobble together a replacement in this year’s X-Factor is. If not to win, then certainly to get to the lives. We can’t be far off needing a replacement Little Mix either. It has been a while since they last took the groups category seriously…

    • Nissl

      I’d say they took the groups seriously last year. Stereo Kicks just didn’t work out. Surely Cowell will try again. But I wonder if he will wait a year to avoid being *too* transparent. There is also plenty of space for a good urban boy or girl group if one comes along, or a mixed group. But I think the best idea is just to make the strongest group(s) possible – take the strongest soloists who actually want to be in a group – and see what happens.

      Just saw they will let the audience decide categories via Twitter voting. Clever little way to make the viewers feel like they have more control.

      Overall the previews of this season look pretty promising. The primary thing is that everyone seems to be having fun out there. Hope it is good enough to keep me watching this year.

      • Dan

        I’m of the view that if they had taken the groups seriously last year, they would have culled the weakest members of Stereo Kicks as soon as they hit bottom two for the first time. That would have at least given them a chance to improve the act. Instead, we ended up with eight lads standing in a line and not singing particularly well.

        I don’t actually think they’ve taken the groups seriously since 1D in 2010. Little Mix only won in 2011 because all of the other acts were shot down in flames by the judges and producers. What a messy year that was.

        • Nissl

          I don’t know how a mid-lives cut would have played out. Dangerous territory for the credibility of both the group and show. Ultimately, I don’t think the Kicks were going to work either way. 1D was still too strong and the group lacked anyone with the raw vocal juice of Harry. Three extra-bland Liam/Nialls who were as old as the 1D members, a lead singer who didn’t belong in a boyband whatsoever, a smarmy charisma guy, and three extra young guys who shouldn’t have been there in the first place… nope.

          As for 2011, I’d argue that the main feature was a weak solo field that *could* be shot down, not to mention arguably the most powerful belter to make the lives (Perrie) getting grouped. I would be surprised if they push something right in Little Mix’s lane this year, by the way. They’re the only remaining winner that is currently successful, they just got a multi-week UK #1, and they seem to be in the process of at least denting, if not breaking, the US. It doesn’t feel to me like they are winding down at all. Not to mention the younger Fifth Harmony, which Cowell also controls, just had a big breakthrough hit.

          • Martin

            I think Simon’s desire to constantly be “bigger and better” was Stereo Kicks’ downfall last year. If they couldn’t drag 1D past third, what made them think that they could better that with a vastly inferior group? It was a tall order, but the support from the show was patchy. Song choices like “Everybody” and “Boys of Summer” didn’t delight their demo, they constantly undermined the “hysteria” they were trying to create in VTs with poorly thought out judges comments, and the overblown praise for poor performances seemed unrealistic. Boybands are a tough sell at the best of times, they purposely made it more difficult.

            I’ve watched the recap shows on ITV2 by the judges this year over the past weekends. Simon is up to his old tricks, nothing new there. Cheryl is the new “lady boss” – she’s back, she’s refreshed and she’s taking it seriously. She’s got no music to distract her, she’s executive producer – the message here is that she means business. What that means for the show, I’m not sure but her strengths are always dance and production. With the news on various articles that acts are auditioning with dancers, props etc., I’d expect more of that this year.

            It was also an interesting spot that Rita and Nick did a “top 10” countdown of their favourite moments of the X Factor history. 5 of their top 10 were novelty acts – with Rylan’s judges houses breakdown being their favourite moment in X Factor history. With Grimmy being pushed in many promo interviews with Simon and Cheryl as “hilarious” and so on, and Rita being pegged as a bit dim but funny too, I’d expect that we will see a bit of a sacrifice in talent and a big push for the entertainment this year. Obviously there are roles that acts need to fill, and it still needs to be disguised as a “talent show” but as Simon has said, the last few series were “too serious” – this year is going to be more fun. Simon is still sitting on Fleur and Ben from last year, Little Mix are doing well, as are Fifth Harmony and 1D are ticking over at least until March. He’s got a lot on – I think ratings are more of a priority to him at the minute.

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