Quietly launched in Kyiv was The Eurovision Fan House. This new web portal is run by The Native, a digital content agency based in New York and expanding into Europe. With a ten-year partnership allowing time to explore the space, Fan House aims to connect and integrate the global Eurovision fan base with the Eurovision Song Contest.
Eurovision Doesn’t Have A Website Like This
One of the immediate questions around The Eurovision Fan House is “why has the project been created?“. There is already an official site at eurovision.tv which is backed up by a strong social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. You should also include the EBU’s own website which carries more technical news about the Contest for broadcast partners.
A closer examination of the Fan House website at the moment doesn’t really answer that question. Right now the ecommerce platform is a prominent element of the site, while the video content is reposted clips from eurovision.tv. Written content is in the style of Buzzfeed and Cracked, very light, image heavy, and very opinionated. Examples include a number of listicle-styled articles showcasing the entries of a number of countries, discussions on the best looking boys on stage, and the most cringeworthy performances in the last ten years.
But this written content does highlight on difference between eurovision.tv and Fanhouse. The Eurovision Fan House is not going to be balanced and proportional in its coverage.
Fan House Needs Attitude
It’s clear from both the existing content and our time with Izabela that the Eurovision Fan House has been afforded much more latitude than the existing online portals working for the EBU.”We are the wild child of the Eurovision Song Contest, that is allowed to let our hair down, and be more flexible with things,’” Izabela happily tells us. There are limits though. Fan House is part of the EBU’s family of coverage and the team can still get the call to take down content if it crosses the line.
The question that remains is where exactly that line is. The EBU is the organiser of the Contest, and while many see it as four hours of light entertainment, it is a Contest where the EBU strives to be fair and equal to every delegation and performer. That means ensuring that official communication is neutral in tone, that appearances on the official websites and YouTube channels are balanced and equal across the forty-plus entrants, and is not influenced by the popularity or earning potential of a viral star from a single country.
That’s not the case with Fan House. It can focus on a performer who ‘more interesting’ without having to offer balance across the rest of the competition. “We won’t feel the need, or feel the pressure, to do the same with another artist”, highlights Izabela, “We want to push the envelope a little bit on editorial policy, more so than any of the other official channels of the Eurovision Song Contest.”
Couple that with the use of a ‘millennial voice’ (an approach that relies heavily on sounding young, offering humorous angles, and pushes the entertainment angle far more than traditional coverage) and the disruptive potential of Fan House is clear.
The question now is how to use that attitude to capture new fans and grow the online Eurovision community.
What About Lisbon?
Although the partnership with the EBU is for ten years, plans for the Eurovision Fan House are built around a three-year rollout of the various elements. The launch in Kyiv and the remainder of 2017 was about revealing and establishing the brand.
What can we expect to see on the website in the first months of 2018? Depczyk lays out some of the elements to look forward to, “we’ll be including games, social games, and a complete relaunch of the mobile app – which we’ll be taking over. We’re going to create exclusive content and all kind of goodies you can’t find anywhere else. We’re also looking at all sorts of offline activations in the week of the finals, and we’d like create a physical presence for the Fan House during the finals.”
The focus in the run up to Lisbon 2018 will be around Fan House’s Reality TV styled online video series. This will profile a number of Eurovision fans over thirteen episodes, profile their regular life, and how they get more involved with the Eurovision Song Contest as May approaches. “People devote a good chunk of their live to strengthen the Song Contest brand. There’s not enough being done to reward and encourage that community.”
If theres one things fans of the Eurovision Song Contest love, it is engaging with different aspects of the Contest. Everyone will find their own favoured sites, so the launch of the Eurovision Fan House is to be welcomed. Its approach is not going to be to everyones tastes, but it will be to some peoples’ tastes.
It will be interesting to see how Fan House’s decision to move away from the impartial approach of eurovision.tv will be accepted by broadcasters. Naturally the community sites can have their favourites, offer negative and positive opinions, and rank the entries into the Contest, but to have an EBU-affiliated site taking a similar approach is a courageous choice. In a closely fought Contest delegations may not appreciate if their nearest competitor is getting more publicity through the official channels. The potential for negative coverage (because it’s funny to millenials) upsetting a delegation cannot be discounted either.
It is right that the traditions and assumptions of the Eurovision Song Contest are constantly challenged. As with all online projects, there will be a learning curve, and the Fan House experience on show in Lisbon 2018 will draw on the generated feedback for subsequent years. Depczyk and her team have a bold vision that challenges the views of many in the Eurovision community, but this is not a reason to stop doing something. The challenge for Fan House is to offer something different and create its own space in the community and to grow the love of the Song Contest all year round.