As we on ESC Insight have already discussed this week, the launch of Melodifestivalen’s new mobile application has had an unsatisfactory beginning. Despite the drama with the previous show the number of votes cast was more than three times the average for a Melodifestivalen semi final. This new technology is here to stay in the competition and is already radically changing the way Melodifestivalen works. Now we have seen it in action we have some ideas as to what will be different in the App-era. Ben Robertson investigates the likely outcomes.
The Winners Are Those Who Mobilise The Mobiles
With every new rule tweak different winners and losers will emerge. The use of the App to vote we believe will strengthen acts with a loyal and youthful fanbase. Sweden’s smartphone usage amongst young people is one of the highest in the world. Figures just out have 95 % of 11-year-olds with their own smartphone, and these are also the ones likely to be enticed by the possibility of voting for free. The cost of voting normally is 3.6 Kr, and if you are to cast 5 votes the bill comes to 18 Kr (£1.41 in today’s exchange rates). Something a young Swede would want to avoid on theirs (or their parents’) phone bill.
Here is your biggest growth market. Those acts aiming to attract the votes of the teens and pre-teens now can do so without having the permission of Mum and Dad. Many pop names live their lives through the Swedish-favourite Instagram (Samir with over a quarter of a million followers trounces Eric Saade by four hundred percent) and yes, Samir has made sure his followers are well aware of this rule change.
Ensuring your fans can vote via the App is a huge part of the PR bandwagon to get the young demographic armed and ready for show time. Such acts appealing to a youth demographic often performed well in Melodifestivalen before, but now this change is going to be make young acts a seemingly unstoppable force in the battle to reach Friends Arena.
The Juries Will Have Less Power In The Friends Arena
Melodifestivalen’s voting structure changes for the Grand Final. At the final stage the public votes are combined 50/50 with International Jury groups as chosen by SVT. A key difference that Melodifestivalen has compared to the Eurovision Song Contest is that the televoting window is still open even after the International Juries have revealed their scores. It is likely many Swedish viewers wait until these results are revealed before voting to avoid wasting their votes on a song that is chanceless in winning the ticket to Eurovision. Although the voting is officially 50/50 in practice this gives juries more power as their choices influence what people across Sweden will vote for.
With the App voting this impact is nullified as people will have to vote during the different performances. It means that we are more likely to see a higher spread of televoting results in the Final than recent editions of Melodifestivalen, with a slightly larger potential for jury no-hopers to score well in the Final compared to recent contests.
Decrease In The Money Raised For Good Causes
During Melodifestivalen two different voting numbers are available, one at the price of 3.6 Kr, and another higher at 9.9 Kr. With the premium rate number 8.9 Kr from each call goes to SVT Radiohjälpen. The record-breaking 2012 contest (thanks to Loreen’s runaway victory) for example managed to raise in total 9.6 million kronor for good causes through those who chose to vote in this way.
Some people who may otherwise give to Radiohjälpen or perhaps just ring the number by mistake would now move instead to voting via the App because of its increased convenience. We have already seen in the first week a massive increase in the number of votes but a decrease in the amount of money raised. This should be especially exaggerated during Andra Chansen where voting windows are often just a couple of minutes long and the App becomes a quicker and simpler option. Overall it is likely to only be a small amount lost compared to the 119 million kronor raised throughout all of SVT’s activities and fundraising year-round however expect through the series this number to drop.
Generating A Potential New Bloc Vote
The rules of the app mean that you need a Swedish phone number to vote. However a catch to this is that people connected to all of the Nordic networks can vote in the contest, something SVT have put in place because of people living near the border may often flick between networks.
In this week’s show the three-time Melodifestivalen winner Marie Bergman teams up alongside Sanne Salomonsen. Sanne is Danish. Sanne has already bigged up to the Swedish press how she is mobilising her Danish friends to get hold of as many Swedish phones as possible in an attempt to get her through to the next stage of competition.
It’s unlikely for Sanne’s impact on this to be significant, but another potential foreign neighbour may exert influence on Melodifestivalen in the future. Melodifestivalen is in direct competition with Uuden Musiikin Kilpailu for television viewers on Finland’s western coastline. This area is predominantly Swedish speaking and Finnish broadcaster YLE has also a Swedish-language section and channel. They even run a Swedish-speaking Eurovision website which interestingly blends promoting their own show with SVT’s offering across the Baltic Sea. Melodifestivalen nabs many viewers away from YLE’s production and now they can vote.
The movement of Swedish-speaking Finns to and from Sweden is significant with many coming across the Baltic Sea for work and it would not be a surprise to find a fair number of Swedish phones lying around in Finnish drawers. An act that has a strong support on Finland’s western shore may in the future choose Melodifestivalen above UMK in the knowledge that their loyal fanbase could be dust off those phones and actively support them.
Makes A Surprise Result Less Likely
This is one snazzy app that makes going viral across Sweden each Saturday night so easy. The App can couple itself to Facebook and Google+ and (with your permission) will post the amount of heart votes you cast for each song straight over to your account. Not only that but at a press you can see the points from your friends as well as the results of the whole of Sweden voting during the show. This means we will already have an indication of voter support for each song before the show recaps have even started. On Saturday there was no difference in the App result directly after Eric Saade performed compared to the results announced at the end of the show.
The impacts on this will mean we are less likely for a surprise result in the contest. Spotify plays and iTunes chart have in the past been good barometers, but these have always been lopsided towards the radio friendly genre. This will directly show the voting relationship that each song has which is a more useful dataset. Betting agencies are likely to be significantly more cautious in odd-setting for Andra Chansen and the Final, and the top media will have this information to hand to steer more of their time to the acts in with a winning chance. This is another factor adding to the predictable nature of Melodifestivalen’s structures.
Running Order Bias Will Be Exaggerated
We expect that the impact of running order will be stronger in such a system depending on impulsive voting. Fans at home are unlikely to hand out the top score of 5 votes unless they are completely certain it is their favourite entry, which usually only happens once we have got to the end of all the competing entries. Those supporting individual acts or have heard the short snippets before on Melodifestivalen’s webpage may have decided already but many others are watching to see how good the performances are going to be.
I have experienced this myself judging a school Eurovision system where we had to submit our points for each entry directly after it performed. I never gave out a maximum 12 point score because I was always waiting for something better. How do you know which songs are the best before you have heard them all? It would be realistic that App voting will increase the likelihood of running order basis being even more exaggerated in Melodifestivalen than .
Nobody Knows How Damaging This Might Be For Melodifestivalen
Melodifestivalen has taken its plummeting ratings and fall from grace through last year’s competition with a hard look at themselves. The format has been tweaked in all places from less songs being in each Semi Final show, to releasing songs to Andra Chansen straight after their Semi Final and even removing the iconic balloons from the crowd. The App is another of the many ways Melodifestivalen has been innovative in 2015 to try and lift itself again to the top of Sweden’s TV ratings (it was beaten this past year by the traditional Christmas viewing of Donald Duck).
None of us have any idea how big the App could be, or how much impact any of these changes have on the competition at hand. This appears to be a make-or-break year for Melodifestivalen. It has to comeback and prove itself fit for the next generation of Swedish TV. The App is one of these alternations which could have big repercussions. Expect its usage to pick up over this series, but how far it does and how far this will transform Melodifestivalen nobody knows. The fear is that it makes which artists that go through to the next round a pre-decided mockery.
The aim is that it engages everybody to be involved in making the decision about Sweden’s song choice; a real democracy. However at the moment rather than listening to the songs, people at home and in the arena are hammering a button on their smartphone instead, voting based on their pre-determined preferences. This goes completely against the logic of what any Song Contest should be about.
Only time will tell how much damage this may cause to Sweden’s biggest brand.