“We have experienced some problems with the online voting, but we are checking.”
With those words from the EBU’s Gert Kark, the popular story of the Junior Eurovision Song Contest 2017 was set. No matter the challenging nature of the Russian song, the return of Portugal after ten years, or the very first key-change in any Australian Eurovision entry, Tbilisi will forever be ‘the Contest where online voting failed.’
How Can It Be A Success If It Failed?
I’m not going to minimise the impact of the online voting issues, that’s a hefty weight on one side of the scales. But I want to look at the other side and propose that the EBU made the correct decision to implement an online voting system, that it was beneficial to Junior Eurovision, and it was perfectly in keeping with the ideals and aims of the Eurovision Song Contest brand.
That said, it probably needs at least another year of testing before it can even be considered for the Adult Contest.
Where Did We Start From
It’s worth looking at the conditions that the EBU faced in gathering a public vote for 2017’s Junior Eurovision Song Contest. Two countries were broadcasting the show on time delay (Ireland and Australia, although if you wanted to get up at oh-my-god-its-early Down Under then you could watch the clean feed being relayed on ABC.me) so the traditional phone/text window was not possible. Even if it was used by the rest of the entrants, the lower viewing figures in some countries meant that getting enough valid votes to protect the integrity of the results by passing the various thresholds was challenging at best. Junior Eurovision 2016’s experiment with three juries and no public component to the vote left a bad taste… this is a show that is meant to be inclusive. That includes being inclusive of those watching in coutnries which did not have an entry.
Given those limitations a move to the internet for an online vote was the best answer.
The challenge comes in deciding how you identify the voters and audit for multiple vote casting (either by accident, by experimentation, or with more forethought). This is a challenge for any online voting system. Some broadcasters use a social media login (typically via Facebook) to identify voters. Other ask for an account to be created with the broadcaster and users must sign in (The BBC has such as system to cast your votes on Strictly Come Dancing). These are more secure but demand more time and patience from the voter.
Although the EBU has access to its own social network (myeurovision.tv), and the Eurovision events have significant presence on Facebook, the voting system instead used other methods of tracking so that “only one vote was counted from a single device.” We understand that the time to process votes through this security system held up the vote during the show.
The High Wire Nature Of Live Broadcasting
Nothing ever works one hundred percent on a live show. Both Lisa-Jayne, Tony Currie, and I know where the mistakes, the flaws, the changed scripts, and missed opportunities were in our live radio broadcast of the show. No doubt the TV production of Junior Eurovision has a similar list. Voting is one of them.
But you practice for failure and you make sure you have many options. In the case of the online voting, the EBU could still count the votes that were successfully cast during the show. Depending on the number of connected sessions to the voting server compared to the votes cast you can have a good idea how many are uncounted. Given the number of votes cast its likely these will be in roughly the same proportions.
You never want a blank monitor during a broadcast, but you practice in case it happens (image: Ewan Spence)
Live broadcasts always have fallback positions for pretty much every system. They are discussed in advance because you ”plan for failure’. For example, with the vote starting on Friday and closing on Sunday as the show started there was a set of online votes already locked in and presumably printed out to be used if required. If the online voting system had went down completely during the show it would have been embarrassing but there would still have been a valid vote that had been running for 46 hours.
You hope not to use them, but they are there. The key phrase in Tbilisi was not ‘there was a problem’ but ‘we have a valid vote’.
What Did Work?
Rather than a fifteen minute window of voting, the 2017 Junior Eurovision Song Contest saw the delegations, performers, and the fans all start pushing hard for votes and recognition from Friday 6pm CET before the Contest. That offered two days of increased social media presence, a call to action to every fan of the Contest, and alerting the fanbase of every performer that they were taking to the international stage.
Junior Eurovision became a longer experience, even though the show was, curiously, one of the shortest Song Contests of the last decade. It remains to be seen just how much of an impact this had on viewing figures – although they are down would they have been down more without two days of online push – but there was an increase in awareness. That awareness was worldwide, which meant that voting and participation as not restricted to the sixteen countries in the Contest, but everyone who wanted to watch online (assuming the show wasn’t geo-blocked in their country for complicated musical licensing reasons).
Polina Bogusevich and the Junior Eurovision trophy (EBU/Thomas Hanses)
Media consumption habits are changing. Everyone tuning in at once for a single program is no longer the norm. While competitive events such as the Eurovision Song Contest remain as appointment viewing, opening up the voting window allowed people to consume part of the show on demand and according to their own schedule.
That does diminish the impact of the live show, as previously discussed here on ESC Insight, but is that loss balanced out against the online gains?
Eurovision is not just a four-hour show in May (or a two-hour show in November). The contest within the contest that is Eurovision already relies heavily on PR and marketing, there’s a need to have an efficient ‘get the vote out’ system, and its about leveraging a delegations limited resources to create the most buzz online to capture attention as the voting starts. This year’s online voting at Junior Eurovision has simply codified the long game into the rule book. It’s clear that some delegations had worked through the game theory of winning Junior Eurovision more than others.
Marcel Bezençon Would Be Proud
One of the guiding principles given to the Eurovision Song Contest from its father, Marcel Bezençon, was its use as a test-bed of new technology (alongside bringing countries closer together and the ability to share cultures). There’s no doubt that this year’s Junior Eurovision accomplished all three, but the use of online voting is a clear nod towards using the Contest as a platform to test new technology for the benefit of all of the EBU’s members.
You have to remember that computer code is hard to write, and testing it before deployment is even harder. There was clearly an issue with part of the online voting system during Junior Eurovision 2017. Let’s acknowledge that a mistake was made, but let’s also acknowledge that the introduction of online voting addressed many concerns of Junior Eurovision fans, has given the EBU and its broadcasting members a significant amount of data regarding engagement and participation, and reminds everyone that the Junior Eurovision Song Contest sits at the cutting edge of live television.
The access issues of the voting website during JESC2017 were caused by a security system. Spokespersons of EBU have confirmed this to ESCDaily in response to our editorial from earlier this week. The EBU used the security feature to ensure only one vote was counted from a single device.
In the editorial, chief editor Steef van Gorkum concludes that while EBU has succeeded to keep the voting procedure safe and fair, it did not succeed in preparing the website for the huge amount of online voters during the show. EBU now informs ESCDaily that one issue was in fact caused by the other.
Statement by EBU about online voting at JESC
After a thorough investigation into the Junior Eurovision Song Contest online voting platform we can confirm that the access issue for some users for a short time during the live final was caused by the security feature that was in place ensuring only one vote was counted from a single device. Processing the huge number of votes cast took longer than could have been anticipated. And this meant some users could not access the voting platform.
Whilst the situation is regrettable, the EBU takes the integrity of the voting system for its competitions very seriously. And we are confident, after this investigation, that the final result would not have altered had this issue not occurred. We are always looking at ways to engage our audience further. And the online vote showed that the Junior Eurovision Song Contest has an audience outside the participating countries and those who are passionate about the outcome. We are committed to continually updating and improving procedures so that Junior Eurovision will grow and grow each year.
Testing for adult Eurovision
Last week, EBU’s Chief Executive Supervisor Jon Ola Sand confirmed to ESCDaily that the online voting procedure was a test. Potentially, this could lead to implementation of online voting at adult Eurovision in the future as well.
Immediately after his remarks, fans raised concerns about the security of online voting. In response, EBU stated that they had a security system in place. However, they were not willing to discuss how it worked exactly. EBU now adds that while they are happy their security system succeeded, they will work on improving the access issue to the website.
Such improvements are a necessity. If online voting ever comes to adult Eurovision, the voting website will need have a powerful security system, while at the same time being able to handle at least 20 times as many voters as during the JESC competition.
More than 30,000 queued in to try to get tickets today, but only a few got the chance as it sold out within 30 minutes. The official ticket master, Blueticket, is being criticised for choosing an unfair method to allocate who could buy.
It’s all gone. The first bunch of tickets made available for the Eurovision Song Contest 2018 in Lisbon are sold out. It took the fans less than 30 minutes to buy all of the available ones, but many were unsatisfied with the way Blueticket – the official ticketing website – handled the task.
Early this morning, Blueticket’s main page was replaced by a queueing system that would – at 11AM CET – randomly assign a number to each visitor, which didn’t take into consideration if someone was waiting for five hours or five minutes. The method has outraged many fans who made sure to raise their opinions on the company’s Facebook page.
“I think that you should change the system of giving the number in a random way. I’ve been waiting since 9:30am CET and I got 6,674. Other people who wait, for example, 10 minutes got 300…”
On top of that, after the tickets were gone, many fans were still queued in to get one. That left them confused on whether they should still be waiting or not: “What a terrible and inefficient ticketing system. I’m sitting here like an idiot and the website still says I’m on queue. You could at least update the website”, a fan wrote on their Facebook page. Blueticket’s main page was only updated roughly an hour after the sold out announcement.
Tickets for the golden circle along with its premium version – which includes early entry access plus a backstage tour – were the first ones to go followed by the main standing area.
During the first phase today, only standing tickets were made available, but on December 20th, when the second wave of tickets is put available for the final, all sort of tickets will be up for sale. Prices will vary between 35€ and 299€.
After the allocation draw – in January of 2018 – tickets for the two semi-finals will also be made available along with further waves that will be announced soon.
According to Jon Ola Sand, the EBU’s Executive Supervisor of the Eurovision Song Contest, Portugal is ahead of schedule for the upcoming contest in Lisbon in May 2018. The Norwegian television executive has confirmed this to ESC Daily.
“The preparations are going very well,” says Sand about the host broadcaster RTP, when we spoke him at the JESC 2017 in Tbilisi. “They are well on schedule and have delivered everything we need according to the timeline. They will be ready, on certain topics they are even ahead on the schedule.”
For RTP it is a new sensation to get the honour of hosting the biggest music competition in the world. Portugal never won the contest before and will be the host for the first time in history. Making them experience that there is more hosting the Eurovision Song Contest than the things everybody can see on their screens. “It is so much more than just the three tv shows. Their biggest challenge is a mix, I cannot point out one or two things. To get the finances and the team ready and get the city involved, that takes time. But they have managed to do all this so far.”
Different from Kiev
Portugal’s early progress is a big change, when compared to the preparations for the contest in Kiev in 2017. Many financial and legal issues were giving the organization a lot of headaches. Because of a clash with a Memorial Day, the contest had to be rescheduled in a early phase, making the contest clash with international football matches and hurting the viewing figures. Even one month before the contest, there were still talks about rescheduling the contest again, also due to logistic issues.
The first wave of tickets for the grand final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2018 have been sold out in a short period of time. At 11:00 CET the tickets went on sale and 30 minutes later, the EBU announced that the first wave was sold out.
There will be four waves of ticket sales for the contest in May 2018. The first standing tickets for the grand final were available today. The second wave with final tickets will go on sale on December the 20th.
Semi final tickets go on sale later
Tickets for the semi finals will not go on sale until after the semi final allocation draw in January. For the first time in years, there is no opportunity for fans to purchase tickets through the OGAE fanclubs. The used to offer a special discount.
Fans have been able to purchase their tickets the past few days, though the demand has been a lot higher than the packages available. Tomorrow the first batch of tickets will be released through the public ticket sale. A good portion of patience might be your best friend.
As expected, the tickets available for the OGAE fan clubs were less than the actual demand. Around 5,000 fans asked for one of the fan club ticket packages. Only 1500 were available. That leaves 3,500, plus the fans not registeret in OGAE clubs to try their luck through the public ticket sale – together with the general public.
Ticket sale is often a stress factor for many. It is not uncommon that the system goes down or that some experience various errors, so patience will probably be needed tomorrow when the first part of the public tickets go on sale. Only tickets for the Grand Final will be released tomorrow. Tickets for the two semi-finals will be released later.
You should buy your tickets through the official provider BlueTicket. The system opens at 11.00 CET.
Preliminary seating plan
Altice Arena (Former MEO arena) can host up to 20,000 in full capacity. For Eurovision we expect a maximum of 15,000, but no exact number has been mentioned.
The blue area is the fanzone /standing area
The light grey area at the stage is the Golden circle area
Tickets will be available in a big U shape around the stage
Portugal is hosting the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest as Salvador Sobral won the 2017 edition of the contest with the song Amar Pelos Dois. In the video below you can see an alternative edition of that one as a fan tries to get to the very soul of that song: