Be in no doubt, the delegations hungry for the win will be looking at the draw and using this to build up PR campaigns, to target resources on fans, street teams, television appearances, social media sites, and all the other tricks that you can bring to bear in a media campaign with a fixed deadline.
It also means that we can see which countries already have a slight advantage, and which are walking out to the stump with a broken cricket bat.
But first, a recap of the actual draw:
Semi Final 1
Albania, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Iceland, Israel, and Lithuania.
Armenia, Austria, Croatia, Cyprus, Finland, Macedonia, Greece, Ireland, and Switzerland.
Semi Final 2
Australia, Denmark, Norway, Moldova, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, and The Netherlands.
Hungary, Georgia, Malta, Montenegro, Latvia, Poland, Slovenia, Sweden, and Ukraine.
And for those of you keeping track of the votes of the Big 5 and our hosts; Spain, Portugal, and the United Kingdom will vote in Semi Final 1; while France, Italy, and Germany will vote in Semi Final 2.
Finland: All The Boxes Ticked
Thanks to some quick thinking from YLE, the Finnish broadcaster switched from a full selection to a nominated artist. This of course leads to the question of who will spend time to apply next year and risk being usurped by Mikael Saari wanting a similar set up to Saara Aalto – but that’s something for after Lisbon.
Saara’s career over the last eighteen months has been very much focused on the UK and Ireland thanks to her run to second place in The X-Factor, going from ‘the kooky one from Finland’ to ‘can we adopt her’ in the mainstream media. With both the UK and Ireland voting in heat one, alongside close musical neighbours Estonia and Iceland, Finland heads to Lisbon with a solid foundation of existing support.
It wouldn’t surprise us if Saara gets more coverage in the UK tabloid press than the winner of the UK selection.
Bulgaria And Austria: A Modern Partnership
With the power of Symphonix (a Vienna based musical production company) working with BNT to give Bulgaria their last two placings, and now Cesar Sampson, who has been the backing singer for Bulgaria for the past two year, fronting the Austrian entry this year – it was important for both countries to be in the same Semi Final to continue this modern partnership. There’s a slight added bonus for Austria of having both Switzerland and Czech Republic in Semi Final 1 as well.
Performing on Monday and Tuesday also is an advantage, should you make it through to the Grand Final, because you then get a slight breather before having to do it all again on the Friday and Saturday. With Bulgaria in the first half and Austria in the second half of the draw that mixes things up a little bit, but could it be that Bulgaria will provide a dynamic and colourful show opener?
Ireland: Sneaking In
Ireland managed a streak of luck too, with the United Kingdom being able to vote for them, assuming the Irish artist choice resonates with the UK audience. If RTE play it right they could certainly garner points from the UK which may see their first qualification since 2013 – being in the larger Semi Final slightly reduced their chance but being in the second half could balance that out. As it stands Ireland could still sneak into Grand Final, it very much depends on singer and song choice.
Montenegro: Will Take All The Help It Has Been Given
Montenegro also managed a small win from yesterday’s draw as it was drawn in the bottom half of the second Semi Final, and also being in the same voting mix as Serbia & Slovenia. Neither of these are big wins, but for Montenegro any slight advantage needs to be capitalised on to try and get the Saturday night ticket. In a perfect world Albania would have been in the same Semi Final, but you can’t have everything!
Latvia: The Lonely Baltic
Looking over the countries in Semi Final 2, there’s a glut of reliable qualifiers in the shape of Russia, Sweden, Ukraine, Romania and Poland. Below them are countries who arguably ‘sneak’ into Saturday night with an especially strong strong or performance. Out of the gate a number of countries look isolated without any major diaspora to kick start their campaigns, but the biggest worry must be Latvia with its Baltic brothers all over in Semi Final 1.
Malta, San Marino, And Georgia: Missing Their Friends
Also losing out its normal friends of the UK and Ireland is Malta. Along with San Marino and Georgia, the Mediterranean island looks to be on shaky ground in terms of votes but it has a small advantage of Italy voting as part of Semi Final 2. Unfortunately the votes that are going to be drawn up by the big hitters above leaves Malta very little space to sneak in and grab enough to get over the line.
San Marino would have wanted to be in the same Semi Final as Austria because of the partnership with Global Rockstar in Vienna and Georgia stands alone for the Caucus region; whilst Armenia and Azerbaijan are sure to give each other 0 points, both of them usually have a few points for their Georgian neighbours which this year will be missing.
Scandinavia: Splitting The Region
Let’s just put Sweden, Norway, and Denmark together here. Even though Sweden has an almost perfect qualification record, and the numbers ever so slightly favour SVT, when these three are grouped together the votes between them become a little bit more fractured resulting in lower than average scores. With Semi Final 2 having more of the big hitters than Semi Final 1 any drag on your score will be felt more keenly on Thursday than Tuesday.
Sweden does get the bottom half ticket, so is Norway or Denmark is going to push the other onto a sticky wicket?
Australia: Needing An Audience Connection
Our biggest concern over all the draw is for Australia. There are not enough years of voting patterns to be able to comfortably make a prediction here. Australia struggled in the televote last year and was kept afloat by the juries. A first half draw is also concerning unless the already nominated Jessica Mauboy has an outstanding show opener in her back pocket – but in amongst Norway, Denmark, Serbia and Russia, Australia could get lost in the mix.
The obvious answer would be to prioritise the pre-party season and try to get Jess on TV in France, Italy, and also try to remind the Danish and Dutch audiences that she was on stage in Copenhagen, which was the year that the Netherlands also did outstandingly well – playing up the ‘feel good factor’. But with commitments to the Commonwealth Games and filming on The Secret Daughter promotional opportunities will be limited.
Final Thoughts From January
Whatever happens on the nights of the two Semi Finals, as always they’ll be nights to remember – tickets to all the Semi Final shows are on sale now, the sole authorised ticket agent is Blue Ticket tickets bought from anywhere else may not be authentic and you may end up disappointed.
Contributions from John Lucas, Sharleen Wright, Lisa-Jayne Lewis, and Ewan Spence.