How Roksana Won Junior Eurovision
Much was made of the online vote in the run up to the 2018 Junior Eurovision Song Contest. After the hiccups of the 2017 edition where online voting crashed during the live broadcast, the 2018 edition appeared to run smoothly.
I’ve written much about the strengths and weaknesses of using the online vote in Junior Eurovision last year. To summarise in short, one of the biggest challenges it has is the ability to vote for your own country, although you need to vote for a minimum of three songs with each vote. This method is unchanged for 2019.
In the run up to last year’s competition, I outlined the huge fanbase that Roksana Węgiel had compared to the other acts competing. She had become a huge star in Poland, and before last year’s competition commanded a whopping 242,000 Instagram followers (as of October 20th that’s now up to a staggering 829,000). This was one of the reasons Poland was expected to do well last year.
Furthermore, Poland was broadcasting the show on TVP2, one of the mainstream channels. Many other broadcasters now either broadcast on dedicated children’s channels or channels dedicated to a certain national language. That means less viewers. Poland secured 2.2 million viewers watching Roksana’s victory. This compares to 1.4 million in the host nation Belarus and 1.16 million for France, but also 35,000 in Italy and 20,000 in Wales. The magnitude of difference is staggering.
Furthermore, anybody reading ESC Insight will be familiar enough with the Eurovision Song Contest to know that Poland has a huge and active voting diaspora spread across the continent, meaning there’s plenty of additional viewers across the continent who might be voting for their home nation.
And you know, there’s also the fact that the song is a bop. As I had outlined after last year’s victory, ’Anyone I Want To Be’ was probably the slickest pop number in the competition truthfully probably the song that most matched the 13-16 target audience the EBU had for the show.
Roksana’s performance ranked her in seventh place out of twenty with the juries. However the online vote was a whopping 136 points, 19 more than France in second and enough to lift the crown by a margin of 12 points.
It was anticipated that with the requirement for the online vote being to vote for numerous countries that the online vote would be far less spread out than the jury vote. At the lower end of the scoreboard that is clear, Serbia, Wales and Portugal received a combined 2 points from the juries, yet three lowest online vote scores were 28, 29 and 30 respectively.
However Poland’s online vote of 136 points almost matched Australia’s runaway jury score of 148 points. The power of the Polish vote defied the equalising nature we expected the voting system to produce.
All eyes are now on Gliwice, and a chance for Poland to do the double.
Wiktoria’s Heading To Eurovision
This year the Polish broadcaster TVP used a reboot of their talent show Szanza na sukces to choose their representative, and the final three sang their prospective Junior Eurovision entries before a winner was selected.
Winning both jury and televote was Wiktoria Gabor, who is using the name Viki Gabor for Junior Eurovision purposes, performing the song ’Superhero’.
‘Superhero‘ is an evolution of last year’s success. This is in the same commercial pop style as ’Anyone I Want To Be’ and has the same lead songwriter in Lanberry. Lanberry herself took part in Poland’s National Final for Eurovision in 2017, finishing 6th. Notably, both songs make use of the 40% non-native language rule to start in English, before transitioning back into Polish. Often in Junior Eurovision the switch happens in the opposite direction.
A commercial success the song is already being. After just one week from the release of the official video on the Junior Eurovision channel the song bypassed the one million view mark. The closest comparison is with the French entry ‘Bim Bam Toi‘ that got just 1/3rd of the views in the same time period. Part of the reason the song has been a YouTube hit is that Viki is part of Universal Music’s label, and the video oozes high-quality, professional production. The same can’t be said for all 19 competing entries. The music video is incredibly important in Junior Eurovision as many votes are cast online before the live performance.
Roksana’s mini-celebrity status (the recent winner of Best Polish Act in the MTV Awards) is still a little bit out of reach. Viki’s followers on Instagram number just under 60,000, far less than Roksana at a similar stage and comparable to the number that Melani Garcia representing Spain can command. Spain are showing the contest on their main channel, so also expect big Iberian support for their operatic artist.
What is in Viki’s favour though is the fact that Poland will be hosting the show this year. Not only will the host country be warmly cheered on in the hall, it also means there’ll be more interest from viewers at home. The 2.2 million viewers from last year would likely have been smashed even without the fact that Poland has decided to move the show from TVP2 to TVP1, the country’s main channel.
Realistically with more viewers and a popular song, I can’t see Poland not winning the onilne vote last year, this year, and probably most years to come.
Is Junior Eurovision Just A Popularity Contest?
Now I’m writing all of this not to say that ’Superhero’ would not be a worthy winner – it actually would be another great example of a catchy pop track that could launch another artist into the music industry. However I write all of this to note that Poland starts with such a huge advantage at Junior Eurovision that the competition could be seen as unblanaced.
You may say to me that the Eurovision Song Contest is also unfair, and Poland benefits from the televote similarly there. The difference though is that the magnitude of difference here is so much larger. The large Polish viewership at home dwarfs many of the other nations and the way Junior Eurovision voting works, that gulf in viewing figures justs adds to the impacts of diaspora voting all too well known.
I feel sorry for Wales, for Ireland, for Georgia. I see no chance for Italy, nor Albania or Macedonia. The odds of these countries winning a traditional televote is low, but possible. In an online vote scenario I find it difficult to imagine each of these nations gathering enough momentum within their spheres of influence to reach the level of support that acts from Poland will have. It got ten times harder for these nations to win.
I worry about the message this gives to our young performers. Instagram followers and where you come from matters far more in Junior Eurovision than in any other competition I can think of. Our children performing on stage will know how much of a popularity contest it is.
How will the Welsh delegation explain this to their artist this year? How do you explain how there’s less people watching at home than our national stadium, but the Polish act will have the equivalent of 20 Millennium Stadium’s as a minimum, and they will all be supporting her? How do you prepare an act for trying your best, but your best will not be good enough no matter what?
What’s hard in writing this is that I like the online vote. I like how it makes time difference not a huge issue (hello Australia), it’s free and voting for three to five entries should reduce the power of the bloc . However if viewing figures are so disparate between countries the bloc power is magnified, not reduced, and the system therefore isn’t fair enough and isn’t fit for purpose.
Whether Poland wins on Sunday or not we will have to wait to see. The questions about the best way to choose our winner though are likely to remain regardless while this system is still in place.
There are two voting windows open for Junior Eurovision 2019. The first voting window is open from 20:00 CET on Friday 22nd November and will close at 15:59 CET on Sunday 24th November. There will also be a fifteen minute voting window during the live show.
The link to vote is here, and you can vote for between three to five performances.