Running Order Rant

NOTE: I originally posted this on EurovisionFamily.tv but with the announcement of the allocation of Sweden and Norway, I thought that it would be appropriate to repost this.

Original Post Date: 6 January 2013

Title: Running Order Statistics and Research

As we all know, the EBU and SVT have announced the abolition of running order draws for the semi-finals and final this year. Everyone insists that draw doesn’t have an effect on the results, but those in the fan (our) community disagree. So, I decided to take a quick look at the past 10 contests as well as the semi-finals to see who’s right.

My process involved determining a song’s position from the end of the show, so a song in “Position 0” in 2010 was Denmark’s entry, “In A Moment Like This,” that closed the show, the song in Position 9 in 2012, Sweden’s winning entry, was nine places from the end of the show (26-9 = 17) and the song in Position 25 in 2010 was Safura’s “Drip Drop” that opened the show.

This table shows the distance of each of the 50 top five songs from 2003-2013 from the end of their shows.

This table shows the distance of each of the 50 top five songs from 2003-2012 from the end of their shows.

At least from my, very unscientific research, the fans are correct. A majority of the top five from the past 10 contests have been located in Positions 0-10. This effect is most evident in the 2007 contest, where all of the top five performed in the final 10 slots. Also, every winner since 2004 has been one of the final 10 songs. The only songs from the spots more than 20 places from the end to make the top five are Turkey 2003 (First from Place 3), Serbia & Montenegro 2004 (Second from Place 4), Malta 2005 (Second from Place 3), Romania 2005 (Third from Place 4), Armenia 2008 (Fourth from Place 5), Azerbaijan 2010 (Fifth from Place 1), Denmark 2011 (Fifth from Place 3), Russia 2012 (Second from Place 6) and Albania 2012 (Fifth from Place 3), which is 18 percent of all top five entries of the past 10 years and are mainly lower in the top (fifth and fourth). Reversely, 34 percent of top five entries were the final six songs in their years.

This table shows the average finish of songs from different segments of each final from 2003-2012. The segments are based on distance from finish.

This table shows the average finish of songs from different segments of each final from 2003-2012. The segments are based on distance from finish. The red is the position of the winner, the orange is the highest average, and the blue is the lowest. If the text is colored, that means that that segment shared songs.

This is the same table, just for the semi-finals, all of them since 2004, including the Kvalifikacija za Millstreet show from 1993.

This is the same table, just for the semi-finals, all of them since 2004, including the Kvalifikacija za Millstreet show from 1993.

Also, I broke the songs into groups, songs in positions 0-5, 6-10, 11-15, 16-20 and 21 and more. Then I took the averages of each set of songs. The results also qualify the position of the fans. For five of the past 10 contests, the songs in positions 21 and up had the lowest average placing, twice containing the last place entry (2004, 2008). Only once (2003) did the winner come from this set of songs. In fact, the eight past winners have come from Positions 0-10, four of those from Positions 0-5 (2005, 2008, 2009 and 2010). The year-set combination with the highest average place was the set of songs in Positions 0-5 in 2008, where the songs had an average place of 6.5. Conversely, 2008’s songs in Positions 21-24 had the lowest average position of the past 10 years, with an average of 21.25th place.

The only bit of research that qualifies the EBU’s position comes from 2011, where the songs in Positions 0-5 had the lowest average placing of 13.833. However, it’s worth mentioning that 2011 was the most even year in the sense that, between the different sets of songs, there was only a two place difference between the highest average (Songs in Positions 6-10 with an average placing of 11.8) and lowest average.

All in all, this idea is a bad one, not only because it has a result on the results (2011 notwithstanding) but because it signals a fundamental change in Eurovision. Specifically, this is the beginning of ESC turning into a song festival more than a song contest. Sure, we have the “randomly” selected qualifiers and the “dynamic” draw to determine the voting order, but neither of these things changes the actual contest, they only serve as superficial additions of extra tension. That’s fine for a three-hour broadcast, where entertainment is necessary. However this is different and this change is seemingly what SVT (and a small portion of the fan community) wants: i.e. a second Melodifestivalen, which literally means “The Song Festival,” just in case you didn’t know.

One of the tenets of MF is the tendency to have heavily favored songs in the final spot(s). From the past few years, “The Worrying Kind,” “La Voix,” “This Is My Life,” Eric Saade’s runner-up “Manboy,” “Popular” and 2012’s much loved runner-up “Amazing” all had either the final or penultimate spot. This extends to the semi-finals, where Danny Saucedo, Loreen and Björn Ranelid all closed out their semis.

Is this what we want ESC to become, the Eurovision Song Festival with highly evident favoritism running rampant? I don’t think so, and I also think that the random draw is integral in maintaining this. If I’m honest, it’s probably not going to change for Malmö’s contest, but I hope the victorious broadcaster that takes over for 2014 seriously re-evaluates the necessity of this (Ed. – Of course the most sycophantic broadcaster from Denmark would win).

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Posted in Eurovision, Random, Writings

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