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:
- The Netherlands
- United Kingdom
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.
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|
|6. The Netherlands||Italy||16||x|
|18. United Kingdom||Russia||3||1|
|25. Bulgaria||United Kingdom||24||x|
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.