'Creating TV magic' - All change for Eurovision 2016

As The Drum’s coverage revealed last year, the often underestimated Eurovision Song Contest is actually a far bigger opportunity than most marketers realise, and an event that love it or hate it still brings hundreds of millions of people together.

Believe it or not we’re already in Eurovision season, with countries across Europe steadily working through their local selection processes to pick a favourite. In some, most notably reigning champion Sweden, it's a multi-week spectacle that attracts some of the biggest local talent & the largest TV audiences of the entire year.

Here in the UK there’ll be less fanfare when our representative is picked via televote during a dedicated BBC Four showing, though even that will be the first time that the public’s had a say in the matter this decade. However, it may not be a good thing for our chances of winning as although as a nation the British like to complain about how unfair Eurovision’s voting is, we also have a habit of sending the worst imaginable songs to compete in it.

The biggest announced change to the contest this year is a shake up to the voting system, allegedly the biggest change since 1975, which for many viewers is the highlight of the night. Although public televoting has been introduced alongside the traditional jury already across Europe, to date the scores given by each country where an average of the two.

This year the representatives from each country will read out the scores (up to a maximum of 12 points) purely from their local jury, whilst the televote points from each nation (now an additional second set of up to 12 points) will all be pooled together and announced at the end.

Given that the juries and public can have very different opinions on the rightful winner this will make the contest virtually impossible to predict right up until the last minute, where one country could theoretically win 504 points in one go if the other 42 countries all gave them top marks.

It’s perfectly possible that The Drum's expose last year on how the order of Eurovision voting can reveal the winner in advance forced this change, but it’s perhaps more likely that it’s designed purely to add drama to the contests final minutes, producer Christer Bjorkman said it was about "creating TV magic."

Elsewhere you may be surprised to hear that Australia will be back again, and are rumoured to be sending the once moderately famous Delta Goodrem. In case you missed it last year they were allowed to join as a special one off guest for the 60th anniversary event, but following an impressive fifth place finish and passionate home support have been welcomed back again.

Although their inclusion in a European event is somewhat confusing, the reality is that any country which is a member of the ‘European Broadcasting Union’ is technically eligible, which is why countries such as Israel and Turkey have been regular contenders for years. Last year Twitter frankly provided a better explanation for their participation:

It might seem a little early to call it but there is already a favourite for the show. Margaret from Poland has previously won the local version of The Voice and her song ‘Cool Me Down’ sounds like a radio-credible Rihanna song from a couple of years ago and hit half a million YouTube views in just three days.

The slight technicality is that she still has to make it through her local selection process so it’s still perfectly possible they’ll opt to send a classic piece of folk music instead. She faces stiff competition from Sergey Lazarev, a big star in Russia who has been picked to represent them but hasn’t revealed the actual song yet, his YouTube channel has had over 47 million views and some of his songs certainly play up to Eurovision stereotypes.

Here in the UK six potential songs have been revealed, and surprisingly enough they all, just about, sound like credible pop music: Bianca Claxton has a song written by Leona Lewis & one of the Spice Girls writers; Joe & Jake who are a bit Years & Years met on The Voice; Matthew James used to be in 90s group Bad Boys Inc (who?); successful folk act Dulcima actually wrote their own entry; and Darlene take the country vibe one step further with a song not dissimilar to the Dutch runner up from a couple of years ago.

Whatever the eventual line up come May there’s likely to be one familiar face in the crowd – Ireland have selected Nicky Byrne, best known for being a member of the boyband Westlife, to represent them with the song Sunlight. It perhaps represents some light at the end of tunnel for a contest which despite its popularity has sometimes struggled to find relevance in many countries over the past decade.

Marketers’ wanting a piece of the action may have already left it too late to go big around the contest, but can check out our handy guide from last year on the activation opportunities.

Jerry Daykin is The Drum’s semi-official Eurovision correspondent. He does have a day job in which he advises some of the world’s largest brands on how to invest their digital and traditional media, working as digital partner for Carat Global.

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