2017 Grand Final Performance Order Written by on May 12, 2017 | 6 Comments

Another year another producer-led performance order for the Eurovision Grand Final. John Egan dusts off his (crack’d) crystal ball to discern the implications for who might lift the crystal microphone.

 

We have this year’s producer-led running order. Each act randomly drew either first half (slots 1-13) or second half (slots 14-26) this week. The exception is host Ukraine, who were randomly assigned 22nd at the semi-final allocation draw in March. Since the host broadcaster leads the production team, they also lead development of the running order. Having them randomly draw one of the 26 slots is the only fair way to allocate their slot. Here’s the order:

  1. Israel
  2. Poland
  3. Belarus
  4. Austria
  5. Armenia
  6. The Netherlands
  7. Moldova
  8. Hungary
  9. Italy
  10. Denmark
  11. Portugal
  12. Azerbaijan
  13. Croatia
  14. Australia
  15. Greece
  16. Spain
  17. Norway
  18. United Kingdom
  19. Cyprus
  20. Romania
  21. Germany
  22. Ukraine
  23. Belgium
  24. Sweden
  25. Bulgaria
  26. France

The idea behind the producer-led order is to make the show itself a better viewing experience. Random draws have in the past resulted in two, three or four similar sounds songs—or, perhaps more importantly—clumping the entries contending for victory together. As a production practice, it’s a good one.

It does, however, leave potential for allegations of bias: this is purposeful rather than random. With Ukraine already randomly assigned 22nd, one might assume there’s no scope for favouritism. However, with Christer Bjorkman called in by the EBU to help get Kyiv 2017 back on track in mid March, the question begs: when I Can’t Go On was given the 24th slot—one of the best ones—was Bjorkman part of the UA-PBC team that made the decision on Sweden’s slot? We suspect Christer would love to tie Ireland’s record for most Eurovision titles; we do not think he would overstep the ethical mark here. 

Winners

Since the draw stopped being 100% randomly assigned, we have had two winners from the first half (2014, 2015) and one from the second (2016):

  • 2014 (Copenhagen): Rise Like a Phoenix – Conchita Wurst – Austria (11th)
  • 2015 (Vienna): Heroes – Mans Zemerlow – Sweden (10th)
  • 2016 (Stockholm): 1944 – Jamala – Ukraine (21st)

In other words, strong entries from the first half are not struggling to win. In fact, Zemerlow and Wurst both cruised to victory. Except…Heroes was only third with televoters, whereas Rise Like a Phoenix was both the public and jury favourite.

Last year versus this year

Comparing this year’s draw against last year’s offers a few plausible things to discern about who is coming out of the semi-finals will with some momentum. This table includes this year’s Grand Final running order, last year’s running order, where each entry’s final ranking for the Grand Final ended up and their final ranking in their semi-final.

2017 Order 2016 Order Final Rank SF Rank
1. Israel Belgium 10 3
2. Poland Czechia 25 9
3. Belarus Netherlands 11 5
4. Austria Azerbaijan 17 6
5. Armenia Hungary 19 4
6. The Netherlands Italy 16 x
7. Moldova Israel 14 7
8. Hungary Bulgaria 4 5
9. Italy Sweden 5 x
10. Denmark Germany 26 x
11. Portugal France 6 x
12. Azerbaijan Poland 8 6
13. Croatia Australia 2 1
14. Australia Cyprus 21 8
15. Greece Serbia 18 10
16. Spain Lithuania 9 4
17. Norway Croatia 23 10
18. United Kingdom Russia 3 1
19. Cyprus Spain 22 x
20. Romania Latvia 15 8
21. Germany Ukraine 1 2
22. Ukraine Malta 12 3
23. Belgium Georgia 20 9
24. Sweden Austria 13 7
25. Bulgaria United Kingdom 24 x
26. France Armenia 7 2

What we can’t do is try to make linear comparisons and say “song 15 (Serbia) last year qualified 10th, so song 15 this year (Greece) must have too!” That would be rather silly of the producers. More importantly, the numbers do not line up that tidily. What was clear last year is that in each case songs that came out of their semi-final ranked in the top two were all given excellent slots:

  • 1st: Australia (13th, the “pimp” slot in the first half)
  • 1st Russia (18th, close to the average slot from which many winning entries have come in the era of the two semi-final system)
  • 2nd Armenia (26th, the ultimate slot)
  • 2nd Ukraine (21st, at the top end of the winning slot range, but also a bit distant from Russia)

For the third ranked entries, Malta was given a great slot (22nd; ended up 12th); Belgium was ostensibly sacrificed to give the show a strong opener, yet still managed 10th place overall. France is closing this year’s show, but is proceeded by Bulgaria, whom many think won the second semi-final.  With Israel opening and Bulgarian in the penultimate slot we suspect they were both in the top three of Thursday’s semi-final. 

Beautiful Slot – 25th (Source: YouTube/Eurovision)

Another thing the producers tend to do is create a bit of space between any obvious contenders whenever possible. Portugal and Belgium are the entries that have shown persistent pan-European iTunes chart activity this week (Sweden, Italy and Bulgaria are a fair ways back). With no data on how the Eurovision version of Italy (or the rest of the pre-qualified entries) will score with juries or the public, producers have to surmise how Italy might do—and probably favourably so: Italy’s been an overwhelming favourite for victory shortly after Occidentali’s Karma won Sanremo. With both Portugal and Italy in the first half, a range of entry types leads us to Italy, a pause, then Portugal. Interestingly two of the four non-English songs, Hungary and Italy, are back to back.

Song 11 from Portugal (Source: YouTube/Eurovision)

France and the UK are hovering around the lower part of the top 10 gambling odds, though France is down and the UK significantly up. That’s reflected in the 18th slot for the UK. Being proceeded by Norway and followed by Cyprus works for and against the UK: Lucie Jones’ performance may well erase any memory of JOWST, but Hovig offers another strong performance. It’s fundamentally different (epic vocal versus metaphoric expression), and might appeal to different constituencies.

Another important question is how any ad breaks can impact things. Last year these were after songs 5 and 12. Last year Italy faded in the Grand Final (especially with the public), while Australia finished as runner up. This year these would be the Netherlands and Croatia. In 2011 the breaks were after 5 and 14: that would the Netherlands and Greece trying to grab back the audience’s attention.

Where to Watch

A Eurovision Grand Final generally has a high standard of entries. This makes sense, since all but six of the entries have already passed through the crucible of a semi-final for their golden tickets. However, 20 entries come into a Grand Final with top 10 results–but no more than 10 can do that again on Saturday night. With at least two prequalified entries fancied for top 10 success on Saturday (Italy plus France or the UK or all three), that means several entries’ elation from midweek will be somewhat crushed. But it bears remembering that qualifying for the Grand Final is itself a massive achievement

Yodelling from 20th (Source: YouTube/Eurovision)

Hungary, Italy, Denmark, Portugal and Azerbaijan are in one of the three sweet spots of the draw. These entries contrast with one another and the audience is still relatively fresh. Greece, Spain, Norway, the UK, Cyprus and Romania are in the range where more televote era winners have performed. Recent years have shown that only one or two of the final five entries will end up top 10, but Belgium, Sweden, and Bulgaria offer a run of potential contenders. It will be fascinating to see how the votes split in the semi-finals, once we have crowned our 2017 champion.

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Have Your Say

6 responses to “2017 Grand Final Performance Order”

  1. James says:

    I just noticed that all the non-English entries are in the first half of the final.

    Most interesting is that 3 out of the four are placed nearly next to each other with, as mentioned, Denmark serving as a buffer between Italy and Portugal, with Hungary serving as a lead-in to Italy.

    I don’t really believe that runner orders serve as a accurate barometer on how a song will fare, especially if the quality of the line-up is high and if there are unexpected contenders for the crown, as what happened with 1944 last year. But I do recognize the pattern with where the winning song would come from. Songs like Heroes and Euphoria winning however seem like an inevitability, in my point of view, and would have probably won anyway wherever in the running order they may have been placed.

    If Christer has a hand though in determining the running order to benefit his country, it would only confirm how much he is intent on avenging his poor placement during his own time as a Eurovision performer as well as exact revenge against Ireland by tying that country’s record.

    But I don’t think he has. lol 😀

  2. Darren says:

    I hope and assume that the broadcaster who sets the running order doesn’t know the actual results of the semi-final? They should only know what we know; i.e. bookies’ standings, fan polls, etc. Hopefully the actual placings are only known by Jon Ola Sand and the company collecting the data (is it still Digame?)

  3. John Egan says:

    They absolutely know the results from the two semi-finals. They know the aggregate scores and the specific jury and televote scores. They perhaps do not have the complete jury rankings–that extensive data doesn’t really help programme a TV show. Which is why in the Grand Final you haven’t since 2014 seen any of the top 4 semi-final qualifiers performed adjacent to one another. Last year Malta was immediately after Ukraine–but we subsequently learned that Malta was massively lifted by the jury scores (first with juries, ninth with the public, third overall in semi-final one), whereas Ukraine had strong support across the public (first) and juries (third) for second overall.

  4. Mio says:

    This is the first year since I’ve been following Eurovision that my two favorite songs are both considered contenders: Portugal and Italy. I would be happy to see either of of them win, but Ultimately my heart is with Portugal.

    Seeing that they are both in the first half of the show, I started wondering how likely is it that they could place 1st and 2nd, or if not that, at least both in the top 3.

    Hoping to find some fuel for optimism, I did a late night analysis of the top 10 songs -and their running orders – for each other last 10 contest = 100 songs from 2007 – 2016.

    Here is a summary of what I found. Feel free to check my data (I’m not a mathematician, but I care.)

    RUNNING ORDER
    of …

    …Top 10 finishers
    1st half = 48%
    2nd half = 51%
    Middle = 1%
    (2010, Georgia’s Sofia Nizharadze sang “Shine” 13th in the running order out of 25
    songs that year and finished 9th)

    … Top 5 songs
    1st half = 40%
    2nd half = 60%

    … Top 3 songs
    1st half = 33%
    2nd half = 67%

    … Winners
    1st half = 20 %
    2nd half = 80 %

    It looks like there is an advantage to performing in the second half of the show. Of course there are exceptions.
    I like the looks of 2014 :
    Winner Conchita performed 11th.
    3rd place finisher, Sanna Nielsen performed 13th.
    Italy and Portugal performing 9th and 11th this year looks like a similar dynamic.

    Even better, going further back, 2004 is an inspiration for the possible:
    Winner Ruslana with “Wild Dances” performed 10th.
    Runner Up ŽŽeljko Joksimović with ” Lane Moje” performed 5th (quite an accomplishment finishing second from that running order).

    There are many ways to look at the data, but one things crystal clear, I am definitely a Eurovision nerd.

  5. John Egan says:

    Good job MIO!

  6. Chris says:

    Interesting reading – and yes, the producer-led running order is designed to give a better viewing experience, but we mustn’t forget that as acts are getting more technically advanced, some cannot perform back-to-back as there wouldn’t be enough time to clear props off the stage and re-rig with new props for the next act.

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