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The 2017 Grand Final: Crunching the Numbers Written by on May 14, 2017 | 14 Comments

Aside from the historic win for Portugal—having made their début in 1964 their 53 year wait is a new record—there’s a lot to drill into regarding the numbers this year. John Egan drills into some of the numbers for us.

Aside from the historic win for Portugal—having made their début in 1964 their 53 year wait is a new record—there’s a lot to drill into regarding the numbers this year. But for the first time since 2014 the juries and public agreed on who was the best—overwhelmingly so. This year’s continuation of the split jury/televote point countback prevented what would have been a long and tedious voting sequence: Portugal’s victory would have been apparent shortly after having received half the votes.

For the 10th time since televoting was introduced, a first-time victory has happened!

The Naked Ape Dances…and Stumbles

Francesco Gabbani’s Occidentali’s Karma was one of the prohibitive favourites in the months before rehearsals began. Despite an ostensibly successful media campaign—leading to over 100 million hits for the preview video on’s YouTube channel—many following the rehearsals in Kyiv began to suspect Italy’s vulnerability.

Many still expected Italy to finish in the top three overall: instead Italy ended up 6th overall (and not in the top 5 with televoters or juries). They were the only pre-qualified entry to earn a top 10 finish, however: is it perhaps time for the EBU to make the pre-qualified entries the interval act for the semi-finals, so the public and juries get to full preview them in competition-like conditions? By the way, we have to go back to 2011 to see a greater fall from favour: Amaury Vassili’s Sognu only managed 15th on the night.

Teenage Life

We had three teenagers performing as solo artists in the Grand Final: all of them did well. Bulgaria’s Kristian Kostov took Beautiful Mess to the runner up spot with both juries and the public. Next up Belgium’s Blanche mastered most of her nerves to bring City Lights to fourth overall. Finally, Australia’s Isaiah Firebrace managed a ninth place overall with Don’t Come Easy. However all but a handful of his points came from juries—he is arguably the Michał Szpak of 2017, except being the juries fourth favourite rescued him from ignominy.

OGAE polls

Few years have the OGAE membership polls done as poor a job predicting Eurovision success as this year! Here’s their aggregate top 10 entries versus their Grand Final placements:

Entry Grand Final Points Grand Final Rank
1.     Italy 334 6th
2.     Belgium 363 4th
3.     Sweden 344 5th
4.     France 135 12th (10th with the public)
5.     Estonia Did not qualify
6.     Portugal 758 1st
7.     Bulgaria 615 2nd
8.     Macedonia Did not qualify
9.     Israel 39 23rd
10.  Finland Did not qualify

In other words, half the top 10 overall, but not at all in the right placings. OGAE members also fancied three entries that didn’t make the Grand Final at all. Of these Finland was 12th in its semifinal, Estonia 14th and Macedonia 15th. Of course, Macedonia got an engagement ring on Thursday night—that’s rather awesome!

Regardless, the OGAE polls is great fun for members (including me), but it’s not a reliable predictor of much.


Portugal and Bulgaria were both rather greedy this year, in terms of how many points each hoovered up. The most any entry could have netted tonight was 984 points: 492 (12 times 41 countries, since you cannot vote for your own entry) points from juries and the public. Salvador Sobral 758 points is an amazing 77 per cent of the points available to him! Kristian Kostov should feel almost as proud: his 615 points represents 63 per cent of the votes available.

The next six entries were clustered within 100 points of one another.  Sun Stroke Project achieved a best ever Moldovan result. Hey Mamma earned 374 total points to place third overall (264 televote and 110 jury points). Seventh place Romania’s 282 points was almost all—224 points—from the public vote. Most pundits expected Romania’s result would have a much smaller (58 points) jury poll. That’s a 92 point spread for third to seventh, a mere 15 points on average.


Certainly the aggregate score for Portugal is a new record…under a voting system that has been used precisely twice. But how can we compare Amar Pelos Dois’s results against songs under other versions of the douze points scoring system? If we average Salvador Sobral’s overall score against the two voting components, we get an average of 379 points from 41 countries: almost as high as Alexander Rybak’s 387 points for Fairytale in 2009. The 2009 Contest also had 42 competitors, so it’s an apples vs. apples comparison.

If we look at the jury/public vote split, Portugal still falls short. Their 382 jury and 376 public points are still behind Rybak. But an overall average score of 9.24 points out of a possible 12 is a very high average. Both specific components and the average put Amar Pelos Dois just ahead of our most recent thundering Eurovision champion: Sweden’s Loreen with Euphoria earned 372 points in a 42 country competition. In other words, a convincing victory. The public awarded a dozen douze points to Portugal; the juries gave Amar Pelos Dois 18 douze points! Remarkably nearly every voting country’s public gave Portugal at least 5 points: runners up Bulgaria blanked Salvador! “Only” 40 countries’ juries awarded Portugal points, but again the lowest score was 5 points:  Montenegro’s jury is the only one to blank them.

And an historic one: here’s a few other numbers for you to consider. Portugal made its Eurovision début in 1964: their 53 year wait for a first victory now eclipses Finland’s 45 year record. They finished last thrice and earned the dreaded nul point in 1964 (granted, under a different voting system) and 1997. In 11 previous semi-final qualification attempts, Portugal succeded thrice. Their best result ever was 6th place in 1996; in recent years they’ve finished as high as 13th in 2008, when Vania Fernandes also managed second her semi-final with Senhora do mar.

Certainly an historic win. Congratulations once again to Portugal’s Salvador Sobral!

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14 responses to “The 2017 Grand Final: Crunching the Numbers”

  1. Stephen says:

    My favourite thing from the voting is seeing that UK jury gave Moldova 12 points in the semi final! Who said juries only recognise ballads and “classy” songs?

  2. Robin P says:

    Tide has turned. Winning performers increasingly have to have something deeply intriguing about them – e.g. I’m interested to know what book is on Salvador’s nightstand or what Jamala thinks is the best film of the last few years. I can’t say that about Sweden or Italy’s entry this year or indeed last year’s pre-contest favourites. Public appetite is increasingly towards the authentic who doesn’t seem to have a package carefully assembled by delegation. If the modern viewer gets a sniff that they are being enticed by a gimmick or that song-construction and camera angles are too on-the-money it now receives admiration, rather than the title. How many of the JBJ pundits essentially said “Yes, Italy is a hit on every angle, but it’s not the one I’m really rooting/voting for”. Public not that different.

  3. Sagand says:

    Under the old voting system (Both televote and juries ranked and combined) used 2013-2015 Portugal would have scored 417, which is the highest under that system.

    And going back further to the Rybak system (where each jury member gave 12-1 and these were combined to make a jury 12-1 which was combined with the televote 12-1 to make the final 12-1) Salvador breaks the record and would have received between 402 and 408 points. (You can’t tell exactly as juries would have to tiebreak between songs by show of hands. Obviously different systems produce different ties and juries didn’t vote on 2009 ties. 402 is if Salvador lost every tiebreak and 408 if he won.)

  4. John S says:

    Thanks for a very interesting article, but with your suggestion “is it perhaps time for the EBU to make the pre-qualified entries the interval act for the semi-finals, so the public and juries get to full preview them in competition-like conditions?” I think you may be looking for a solution to something which isn’t a problem.

    Here’s a crude, but I think useful, way to look at things: If we assume that each country is equally likely to submit a good or a bad song then on average three of the six automatic qualifiers will submit below average songs. 23 of 46 songs will be above average, by definition, and 23 + 3 = 26. That’s your grand final. The three below average automatic qualifiers ought to make up the bottom of table, just as the did this year. The above average ones should be scattered among the other above average songs coming from the semifinals, with the most likely number automatic qualifiers in the top ten being one.

    You might of course argue that the big five should do better than random chance, because they have more songs and singers to choose from. But in the modern contest broadcasters often import songs and singers and having more songs to choose from doesn’t mean they’ll choose the best ones. If we exclude special cases like San Marino then recent history doesn’t show much correlation between size and performance in the contest, even if we exclude automatic qualifiers from the analysis. It’s just in the nature of national selections that they tend to produce acts which appeal precisely to the people who won’t be allowed to vote for them in the contest. That’s true regardless of the size of your country. Arguably it’s a worse problem for larger countries, where it’s easier to build a career by appealing only to your home market.

    We could also just ignore the numbers and ask which of this year’s automatic qualifiers would have benefited from more exposure in the semifinals. I doubt many of us who watched the semis hadn’t heard Italy multiple times already, and I didn’t find their stage version any more compelling than their pre-contest video. France and Germany arguably might have done a bit better, but I could equally well imagine that Spain might have done even worse if people had been forced to listen to them one more time. The hosts and the UK, I suspect, wouldn’t have changed much.

    So the system seems to be working, more or less. Automatic qualification makes sure that certain countries get to the final, and their broadcasters get the larger viewing audience that comes with that, but it won’t allow them win with a bad song. Equally though I don’t see anything in the recent results to show that it hurts their chances. It seems to hurt their pride, but that’s just because they’ve voluntarily exempted themselves from the mechanism which keeps other countries from embarrassing themselves in front of a quarter of a billion viewers.

  5. John Egan says:

    Thanks for your comment. The benefit of semi-final exposure would be for songs that are a bit less “instant” but nonetheless worthy. Italy’s entry last year comes to mind in particular. Any entry that generates some buzz after a semi-final comes into the Grand Final with a boost. This year Portugal won it’s semi-final–but not as comprehensively as their Grand Final victory. The 1.5 million views of the official YouTube clip of that semi-final performance (treble any other semi-final performances this year) shows that a lot of people were viewing and SHARING that clip. So people were exposed to the song and performance and others would have heard about it from loved ones.

    But let’s flip this: what would be LOST by making the pre-qualified entries a component the semi-final interval acts? Would only use 12-14 minutes of the show. Would it be unfair to anyone? No. Would it increase viewing figures for the Big 5? Possibly.

  6. John S says:

    The loss would be to the host broadcaster. They’re paying quite a lot of money to put together a show whose content they mostly don’t control. The interval is one of their few chances to get something in return by showcasing their country. Higher viewing figures for five other broadcasters wouldn’t do much to compensate them for that.

    Also, to the question of whether this would be unfair to anyone, I think the answer is yes. I just don’t think it would be significantly more unfair than the current system, but you can hardly pretend that giving 23 countries the stage, but only making 20 of them compete to proceed further, is a fair system. Of course the decision to treat different countries differently was made quite a while ago. Now we’re just tinkering with the details.

    The big five created the current system, and if they’ve now decided it disadvantages them and want to get rid of it then I can’t imagine the other countries would force them to keep it. If they feel instead that it doesn’t give them enough of an advantage then I find it hard to be sympathetic. If it’s not really giving them an advantage at all, which seems consistent with the actual contest results, then I don’t see what problem we’re trying to fix.

  7. Maciej says:

    Under the previous voting system (2013-2015), based on combined results of the full rank of jury and the full rank of televoting, the final results are as fallow:

    1. Portugal 417
    2. Bulgaria 352
    3. Sweden 226
    4. Belgium 216
    5. Moldova 214
    6. Italy 178
    7. Romania 115
    8. Hungary 101
    9. France 84
    10. The Netherlands 73
    11. Norway 63
    12. Australia 60
    13. Azerbaijan 53
    14. Belarus 41
    15. Croatia 40
    16. Greece 39
    17. Cyprus 37
    18. United Kingdom 32
    19. Israel 22
    20. Armenia 22
    21. Poland 15
    22. Denmark 14
    23. Ukraine 9
    24. Austria 9
    25. Germany 2
    26. Spain 2

  8. Jake says:

    Germany has won under this system and Italy had gotten 2 second place victories. I hate to say it, Francesco’s problem this year was the monkey on his back. Came across as a silly gimmick that audiences and juries treated as a joke or a play. Uncessary out of context. And not knowing Italian–it was definitely out of context.

  9. James Triggs says:

    In response to John Egan writing of Italy’s ostensibly successful media campaign, I think he hit the nail on the head there.

    I think Italy’s media campaign was too successful.

    There were something like over 60 million hits of the original version, before the shortened Eurovision version that abruptly skips the second verse. To be fair, that’s the short of thing that can hurt the entry even for people who only heard it at the Eurovision grand final, but the familiarity of so many with the original version likely made it more jarring – especially for those who heard the original version but only heard the Eurovision version at the grand final.

    Perhaps if Italy didn’t have so much buzz, perhaps more would have been done to the up the ante in terms of staging, instead of relying on most of the elements of the San Remo performance. Certainly, I don’t know where its the case or not, but its possible that Italy got a little complacent given how it was such a prohibitive favourite right until the end.

    Occidentali’s Karma had winning ingredients for a different year,if only the smaller details were better handled.

    I sincerely hope that Francesco Gabbani returns to Eurovision some other year – between Amen and Occidentali’s Karma he has shown he definitely has what it takes to win Eurovision, but also that he has music that has deeper ideas very worth sharing with the large Eurovision audience.

  10. John Egan says:

    This is an excellent conversation–thanks folks!

    John S: we will have to agree to disagree. 🙂

    Jake: Italy has a 2nd, but there was a massive skew: juries ranking them first, but televoters only 11th. Il Volo were third (behind Sweden and Russia), thanks to a clear televote win but being only 6th with juries. But I agree with you–if Germany (and Austria and Portugal) can win, any country can win.

    James: Good points. I also think countries would do better to never select a song much long than 3:30 for the reasons you described. The “ESC version” of Occidentali’s Karma slaughtered the heart out of it. I think a 3:30 rule would work better musically. But then much of the non-competition elements would need to be jettisoned or rationalised! 🙂

  11. John Egan says:

    You too Sagand!

  12. Denis says:

    Isn’t it also the case that for the first time since 1966 the podium was occupied by 3 countries who have never previously made the Top 3? I think so, but I could be wrong

  13. John Egan says:

    That would be remarkable too Denis.

  14. Mark Butler says:

    Robin P is right, Portugal didn’t SEEM to have a package carefully assembled by its delegation …

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