Why is there such a discrepancy in the televote and the jury vote? It’s a question asked by many after each edition of the Eurovision Song Contests (and also asked after many National Finals). Following another Eurovision first that happened in Lisbon we can add another piece of evidence to this question.
It’s also a fun opportunity to strip back the Song Contest, remove one of the senses that contributes to the experience, and take a different look at the Contest.
Eurovision Song Contest Trophy 2018 (Thomas Hanses/EBU)
“Doesn’t He Look Tired?”
But first, let’s turn briefly to one of the most notable and competitive events where TV and Radio offered different angles – the 1960 US Presidential debate between Richard Nixon and John F Kennedy.
The more experienced debater in Nixon (at that time the sitting Vice President) took on the issues of the day and strongly argued many points – mostly on foreign policy in the first debate – that many called the debate a victory for Nixon. At least those who were listening on the radio.
Sen.John F.Kennedy (l) and Vice President Richard M.Nixon from NBC studios 10/7
Thanks to his experience of political debate on radio, Nixon understood the format, knew how to measure his voice, understood how cadence and pitch could be used to make subtle points, and why he needed to be less of an attack-dog to soften his image. What he didn’t consider was how well his suit jacket blended into the background of the set, how his failure to ask for TV makeup emphases a ‘five o’clock shadow’, and the impact of his slumped physical shape.
The victory on TV, and arguably the overall victory, went to Kennedy.
Even today, when test groups are gathered to measure the difference between the TV and the Radio presentation, Nixon takes the radio while Kennedy takes the television (The Power of Television Images: The First Kennedy-Nixon Debate Revisited; James N. Druckman; The Journal of Politics; Vol. 65, No. 2 (May., 2003), pp. 559-571):
I find that television images have significant effects—they affect overall debate evaluations, prime people to rely more on personality perceptions in their evaluations, and enhance what people learn. Television images matter in politics, and may have indeed played an important role in the first Kennedy-Nixon debate.
The Euroradio Song Contest
Even though we all know what is meant when the public says ‘Eurovision’, strictly speaking Eurovision is just the transmission network that connects the member broadcasters of the EBU. This isn’t the only network maintained by the EBU, there is also Euroradio. The EBU’s members not only had the option to broadcast the Eurovision Song Contest on television, they also had the option to broadcast the Song Contest on radio (although it would still be called the Eurovision Song Contest, not the more technically accurate Euroradio Song Contest).
That also means that the rights for radio broadcast are available to passive broadcasters – an option that was taken up in the US this year by Dave Cargill (Executive Producer at Cargill Gardiner). Along with the support of the EBU, Portuguese broadcaster RTP, lead US station WJFD, and the legendary production team of Radio Six International’s Tony Currie and Leo Currie; Ewan Spence, Lisa-Jayne Lewis, and Ana Filipa Rosa took to the American airwaves with the first US radio broadcast of the Eurovision Song Contest.
You never want a blank monitor during a broadcast (image: Ewan Spence)
Which meant that this year there was an interesting option to have a group of professionals in the music and radio business the chance to sit down and listen to the Song Contest without the visuals from the Altice Arena, but with a professional commentary team guiding them through the process. Naturally we took notes…
What The Panel Thought
Like many of those listening in America, the radio panel (which may be the closest we get to an ‘American Jury’ at the Eurovision Song Contest for many years) had not been following the Song Contest in excruciating depth – they covered people who knew and listened to the Song Contest because it reminded them of their family’s home, those who were aware of the Contest in a broad sense, and some who were new to the entire concept of the Contest. In other words a relatively representative slice of the population.
Of the twenty-six songs in the Grand Final, there was a clear winner from the panel, with all bar one of the top spots going to Austria. Perhaps unsurprisingly the audio performance from the Netherlands all scored highly and was the only other country to top a panellist’s list, and was second with those who rated Austria first.
Three other songs had very strong reactions – the Czech Republic, Lithuania, and Germany. At the other end, Hungary, Serbia, and Australia picked up the ‘nul points’ from our panel.
The feedback also had some delightful questions, with my favourites including ‘When does Armenia come on’, requiring a quick nod to the semi-finals and reminding our Armenian panelist that Sevak did not qualify; and ‘what does the crowd do when waiting for the next song?’ Which is a good question…
This year thirteen EBU members broadcast the Song Contest on their radio networks, but there is no clear way to break out the votes in each country to those watching on TV, those watching on radio, and arguably those watching online through other methods such as the EBU’s YouTube channel or those preferring to watch another broadcaster (e.g. expat Swedes watching the SVT stream). Every country has one main number for the public to call in and vote on.
In terms of Eurovision winning strategies, there’s not a large enough audience tuning into the radio that would merit a specific strategy – the mix of visuals with the singing remains key to the televote – but it’s worth noting that the songs that performed well to the radio listeners also scored highly in the jury voting during the Grand Final. While juries see the EBU TV feed and can see the full package, the US panel only had the audio to judge. There is a clear trend towards the juries following a similar pattern and focusing on the singing.
At one point, each jury member voted live on screen (EBU)
When the split results come in each year, there are always questions about why certain songs have such a wide discrepancy between jury and televote scores. Part of that could be down to the difference between Friday night and Saturday night, but Eurovision’s radio presentation in the USA suggests something more fundamental.
The professional juries are putting a greater focus on what is heard over what is seen.
Do Try This At Home
Due to rights issues, Eurovision’s US radio broadcast is not available online to ‘listen again’. EBU members who broadcast the show on radio may have it available on catch-up services.
Or you could head over to the official Eurovision channel on YouTube, pick a year (here’s 2016), and minimise the window just after you hit play. Maybe go back a few years so you can’t remember the exact results, score the songs, and see if you are closer to the televote or the jury vote.
For the second year, ESC Insight partnered with Radio Six International in the hour before the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2018 to preview the show on radio stations around the world. Now you can have the chance to listen again to the show online.
We’ve made a few edits to the broadcast to cut out the full-length music track, but you can still picture the scene. Lisbon… 2018… one hour to go…. and as the excitement builds, Ewan and Lisa-Jayne preview the upcoming show, invite some guests into the studio, and generally get all excited ahead of the Song Contest.
With special thanks to Tony Currie and Radio Six International, Ade Bradley, and Gianluca Allaria.
Eurovision Insight Podcast: Lisbon 2018’s Radio Preshow
Join Ewan Spence and Lisa-Jayne Lewis and a cavalcade of Eurovision guests including Australia’s Jessica Mauboy, Germany’s Michale Schulte, the EBU’s Jon Ola Sand, and RTE’s Marty Whelan… but there are many more, enjoy the journey. First broadcast on Radio Six International and affiliate stations on Saturday 12th May 2018.
Lisbon is be over, but we have Junior Eurovision 2018 and Eurovision 2019 to look forward to. Keep listening to the ESC Insight podcast over the summer for more Eurovision news, fun, and chat. You’ll find the show in iTunes, and a direct RSS feed is also available. We also have a regular email newsletter which you can sign up to here.
We have our winner, the summer stretches out in front of us, and this Eurovision Song Contest journey is over. But as it comes to a close, we all gather for falafel to say goodbye to Lisbon and the 63rd Contest.
Eurovision Insight Podcast: Our Final Podcast From Lisbon, Sunday 13th May
Our final edition of the podcast from the Big Orange Sofa in Lisbon – ESC Insight and friends of the parish take a light-hearted look back at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. With thanks to Ink Cafe in Lisbon for hosting.
Now we are reporting from backstage at Eurovision, remember to stay up to date with all the Eurovision news by subscribing to the ESC Insight podcast. You’ll find the show in iTunes, and a direct RSS feed is also available. We also have a regular email newsletter which you can sign up to here.
Netta Barzilai’s ‘Toy’ has delivered Israel’s fourth Eurovision victory–congratulations Netta! Now the show is over the communty has been given access to a fair amount of voting data. And we can use that to test our two rules of Eurovision momentum. Let’s jump right in!
The First Rule: From Semi Final To Grand Final
Rule one notes that whichever top qualifier comes closes to doubling its score from the semi-final will win.
Our top two entries were in the same order in the first Semi Final. Netta’s Tuesday night score of 283 points was 21 ahead of Eleni Foureira’s 262 points. Eleni won that semi-final’s televote (Netta was only fourth), but Netta handily won the jury vote (Eleni was only 6th). It was the 78 point gap between Netta and Eleni in the jury vote that could not be overcome–even with a 57 point televote lead for Eleni in that Semi Final.
As for the second Semi Final, the results were almost entirely irrelevant to the Grand Final results. Norway won the second semi-final after performing first in the running order. Sweden were second. Sweden won the jury vote, but were 6th with the public. Norway were only second in the televote (behind Denmark), but were also second with juries. In the Grand Final Sweden managed 7th overall, thanks to being second favourite of the juries (253 points): the paltry televote score for ‘Dance You Off’ (21 points) prevented a higher placing overall. Norway fared worse: 11th with the televoters (84 points) and 16th with juries (60 points).
Our other Semi Final momentum metric was whomever comes closest to doubling their semi-final score will win seemed to hold up as well. ‘Toy’ earned a total of 283 points in semi-final one. ‘Fuego’ earned 262 points.
In the Grand Final ‘Toy’ earned 529 points – just short of the doubling figure of 566 points. ‘Fuego’ in comparison earned 436 Grand Final points – only a two-thirds increase, points-wise.
The Second Rule: From Jury To Televote Points in the Grand Final
Rule 2 asks how much momentum do you need from the jury scores to be confident of overall victory.
Suffice to say the voting sequence this year was gripping, confusing and intense! In fact, the hosts did not manage this section of the show at all well. They burned quickly through the televote reporting – stripping away tension and excitment and failing to allow commentators time to discuss the results as they came in (for example, Sweden’w low televote score and why it was game over). In fact it was too quick for me to input data into a spreadsheet as they went!
The Friday Night Results – Jury Leaders
After the jury votes were reported, this was our top five:
There’s an 88 point gap from Austria to Cyprus and only a 29 point between the eventual top two, Israel and Cyprus. There was scope for Cyprus still to overcome that lead, were Eleni to beat Netta in the televote. And if Austria could hold on to a similar score from televoters as the rest of the Top 5, ORF would be hosting us once more.
The Saturday Night Results – Televote Crowns The Winner
Here’s the top five of the televote scores:
Israel increased their lead over Cyprus by an additional 64 points. In fact, Israel and Cyprus were the only two entries to feature in the top five of both scoring components. Based on the scenarios in our second article, this is a flat year–though not as flat as 2011, when the Azeri winning entry was the only entry in the top five of both scoring components.
Israel did break the 300 televote point barrier, but that was the last figure reported on Saturday night. So it had no predictive value.
A Note About The Path To Victory
It’s also worth noting Ewan Spence’s postulations as he discussed a song’s choice of path to victory. The theory postulated there was that you would need to pass 505 points to achieve victory at this year’s Song Contest. With a final score of 529, Netta snuck over the winning line with roughly 60 percent of the final score from televoters and forty percent from the juries – but a win is a win.
Although recent years have seen the second placed country also break the ‘fifty percent plus one’ winning line, Cyprus managed to (just) get over halfway to the line on the televote (253 points) but fell short in the jury vote (183 points) and failed to reach the 505 points mark.
Put simply, when you win the Song Contest and bring the show back home with you, it’s clear that the right choice was made. But the decision to send Netta was always going to be the correct one, even if she had finished further down the scoreboard. It introduced more people to the delights of looping, electronica, and the creative power of mixing. This was a song that had a heart, a message, and meant so much to so many people.
It arrived in Lisbon as a winner. It left as a legend.
Germany Was Right To Choose Michael Schulte
Following a run of poor results, Germany’s fourth place at this year’s Song Contest will be welcomed by the team at NDR. While the easy headlines and disco banger potential of voXXclub have been championed by many, it was the troubador-esque Michael Schulte that captured the hearts in the German National Final. That awarded him the ticket to Lisbon.
Okay, the video projection wall was against the spirit of the ‘no LED” staging decision, but it magnified a story that was delivered with excellence by Schulte. I still think that the song is a little too direct in manipulating emotion in the viewers at home, but it worked in Berlin, it worked in Lisbon, and the way is open for bigger names to trust in NDR’s National Final and take a swing at the Song Contest.
Italy Was Right To Choose Erma Metal And Fabrizio Moro
Strictly speaking, Erma and Fabrizio were right to represent Italy at Eurovision. Sanremo may be seen as the National Selection, but it means so much more to the Italian music industry that the winners have the option of declining or accepting the challenge of making the jump from the Italian riviera to the Eurovision stage.
And this was a clear gamble. The intimate setting of the Ariston Theatre channeled the energy of the two powerful singers, and the larger stage in the Altice Arena threatened to swallow them up. And while RAI will still be wondering what exactly they need to do to get a jury vote, the revitalised Sanremo has delivered a classic that the televoters put in third place.
Finland Was Right To Choose ‘Monsters’
Yes, Saara Aalto finished in her traditional second place (even if it was second to last), but ‘Monsters’ was more than a song… if you were paying attention. In that sense, getting it in front of the Saturday night audience should be considered as much of a success as the last Finnish message song (That would be ’Marry Me’).
YLE gambled that going ‘all-in’ on Aalto instead of the open selection that was stopped in mid flow would deliver a qualification and a strong finish. It achieved the first, and I hope that’s enough to placate the Finnish voices. Eurovision needs more songs to challenge the norms and speak to its diverse audience.
Serbia Was Right To Choose Sanja Ilić & Balkanika
It’s not just about the finishing position on Saturday night for Serbia. For Finland it was about sexual identity for Hungary it was about the career benefits. For Serbia, it was about establishing Beovizija as a successful National Final. The Eurovision Song Contest is firmly back in the public’s conscious, the chosen act was a qualifier to the Saturday night show, …and it gave us Disco Gandalf.
The Czech Republic Was Right To Choose Mikolas Josef
Returning to a National Final for this year was broadcaster CT, and ‘Lie To Me’ picked up the country’s best result with sixth place. But the biggest winner might be the Czech’s selection process itself. While there was the by now expected ‘international jury’ making up part of the show, the other half was decided not by a TV audience but by votes cast online through the Eurovision.tv app (although only votes from inside the Czech republic were counted towards the selection).
No expensive television show, no live voting or auditing, just the music videos of the artists facing the world. That sixth place might just be showing the way forward to involving the public in a cost-effective and transparent manner.
Hungary Was Right To Choose AWS
Always trust the Hungarian public. AWS somehow went from topping the jury vote in the A Dal heats and Semi Finals, only to be suddenly blanked by half of the jury and given the lowest score by the other two. But A Dal’s two part system in its Final meant that AWS made the 100% televote, and the Hungarian public knew what it wanted.
It wanted fire. It wanted energy. It wanted an old-fashioned key change. It wanted metal at Eurovision.
And just like that, A Dal’s reputation for continuing to showcase the best of the Hungarian music scene, continuing to be daring and different, and choosing the best possible entry, continued. An unbroken streak of qualifications to Saturday’s show, plus an invitation to Wacken Open Air in August? AWS might just be the biggest winner of the 2018 Song Contest.
Those are some of our choices for the National Finals that got it right. Who else caught your eye as being in the right place at the right time? As for the National Finals that got it wrong. that’s coming tomorrow, keep your powder dry for that debate!
It’s been just under a week since the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2018, and the ESC Insight team has caught up on enough sleep to look back at another successful year. Hopefully you’ve caught up as well, as we’d like your help with our annual Reader Survey. We like to use the summer months to improve ESC Insight, and we’d love you feedback to help guide us.
To do that, we need to know what you – our readers and listeners – think of ESC Insight. In our time honoured tradition, we have some questions to ask you in our Annual Reader Survey. Tell us what you love, what you hate, what you would change, and what we should keep on doing.
We’ve got a small collection of prizes gathered during our time in Lisbon, the various National Finals, and the Junior Eurovision Song Contest. We’ll pick some of the responses out at random to send out some gifts as a thank you.
How To Take The Survey
You can open up the questions in your web browser by clicking on this link, or you can answer the same questions in the embedded form below.
We’d stress that the the answers from this survey will only be used by the ESC Insight team to improve the site and how we cover the Contest, and we’re not planning on selling them on.