2014 Eurovision Final results estimate: Undo the journey from Malmo to Copenhagen?

Adrian Kavanagh, 9th May 2014

As I used this model to successfully predict the Azerbaijan win at the 2011 contest  and Denmark win in 2013, now that we know the running order for the 2014 Eurovision Final I am going to use this to tease out who the likely winners will be of the 2014 contest will be.

With the numbers crunched, Sweden – who were second favourites before the contest but after the semi finals have been vying with Austria  for the contest favourites position – sit on the top of the pile. If Sweden does not win, the figures suggest that Greece, Armenia, Ukraine and The Netherlands would be then very much in the mix to take the ultimate honours, with Denmark, Azerbaijan and Austria also vying for strong finishes. But be wary. This model cannot take account of actual performances on Final night, nor can it account for the voting decisions of the highly influential professional juries, who have as much bearing on the result as the televotes have.

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In terms of working out who may win this year’s Eurovision, various factors can be looked at, but the three most significant ones are the Eurovision betting odds, past voting histories (involving the 26 finalists and the 11 other countries – which lost out in the two semi-finals – that will be voting in this final) and draw position, as well as performance quality (both in the show itself and the previous night’s dress rehearsal/jury final, which is the contest that the Eurovision juries get to vote on). As only a crystal ball can predict the quality and impact of the different acts’ Eurovision Final performances at this stage (although the betting odds will pick up on/reflect the quality of the semi-final performances), this analysis will just focus on past voting history, draw position and betting odds as a means of determining which countries are likely to do well in the 2014 Eurovision Final.

Past voting histories: During the televoting era, countries have shown a remarkable consistency in terms of the other countries that they vote for. This is probably most evident in the case of Greece and Cyprus’s tendency to award each other douze points in Eurovision contests, with a similar relationship being evident between Turkey and Azerbaijan in some more recent contests. But similar trends can be observed for most other European contestants, including Ireland who showed a remarkable consistency during the “full-blown” televoting era in awarding its high Eurovision points to Lithuania, Latvia, Poland and the United Kingdom, especially from 2005 onwards. Such has been the consistency in Eurovision countries’ voting patterns during the 2000s that one can easily suggest the existence of different, geographically-based, voting blocs, which tend to award especially high numbers of points to certain countries (not necessarily always other bloc members) and from which bloc members can expect to attain their highest Eurovision points tallies. The impact of such “bloc voting” has been tempered in recent years by the reintroduction of a professional jury voting element as part of a 50-50 voting system involving televoting and jury votes. But given that televoting still accounts for half of the total votes being awarded by countries, past voting histories of countries will give a strong indicator as to the destination of their Eurovision votes in the 2014 Final. This suggests that some countries – due to an ability to score highly within one, or more, Eurovision neighbours/diaspora voting blocs – will start the contest at somewhat of an advantage to countries such as France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain and San Marino, which have struggled to win Eurovision points over the past decade and half. It must be noted that the change in the rules for the 2013 and 2014 contests as to how televotes and jury votes will be combined does have the potential to even further blunt the impact of this bloc voting. This was particularly evident in the low points tally awarded to Ireland by the United Kingdom at the 2013 Final.

To analyse this, I calculated, and ranked, the average number of points awarded by all the countries voting in the Final since the introduction of televoting in 1998 to the 26 countries that are taking part in this year’s final. This ranking is then used to determine the finalists that the different voting countries are likely to award their 12 points, 10 points…and 1 point to in these semi-finals, based on past voting histories. For example, the Irish 12 points would be expected to go to Denmark (with an average points tally of 7.4 from Ireland to Danish acts since the introduction of televoting in 1998). The next highest ranked country, The United Kingdom (5.3 points average), would be predicted to win 10 points from Ireland, followed by the next highest ranked countries, Sweden (5.1), which would be predicted to win 8 points from Ireland, and Poland (4.5), which would be predicted to win 7 points from Ireland,, and so on. The predicted points’ destinations for all the other 36 voting countries in the Final are estimated in a similar manner. These points are then combined to calculate the overall predicted point tallies for the semi-finalists based on past voting histories for these contests.   

Draw position: As discussed in greater detail elsewhere on this site and in The Eurovision Handbook 2014, vote patterns for past contests suggest that a country’s draw position can (in part) determine how well they do in that contest, with certain positions in the contest running order (generally later, although certain earlier draw positions such as 10th in the running order have proven to be relatively good ones also) being associated with a stronger likelihood of success/higher average points level as against other draw positions (generally those in the earlier part of the show). In most cases a good draw position does not convey an unsurpassable advantage/disadvantage, which cannot be balanced by the quality of the entries involved and strong/weak performances on the night(s) in question or past voting histories. But, as discussed elsewhere, a good draw position has been shown to give a notable advantage to different acts in the past, all things being even. For the purpose of these predictions, the average number of points won from different draw positions in all of the Eurovision Final contests between 2003 and 2013 was calculated and assigned to the countries selected to perform in those positions at Saturday night’s final.

Betting odds: Past voting histories (or a tendency for countries to award their higher points to certain countries) and position in the contest running order does have an influence on Eurovision success rates. But these do not account for other key determinants of success – song quality and the impact of a song/the way a song is presented on the Eurovision stage. These factors are hard to measure but a variety of methods might be employed to determine rough estimates of these, including pre-contest internet polls although these may have their limitations. The closest approximation can probably be offered in terms of contest betting odds. As punters will want a return on their investment, it makes sense that they will be backing (what they perceive to be) the best entries in order to get this return. The link between betting odds and song quality/impact is not in keeping with the principles of exact science, but betting odds do at least offers some means of quantifying song quality. A number of contest analysts would argue that betting odds often offer the most potent means of estimating likelihood of contest success, as evident in the number of recent contests that have been won by the pre-contest favourite. This also allows for the identification of highly tipped entries, such as this year’s entry from The Netherlands, whose likelihood of doing well in the competition would not be evident from a study of prior voting patterns for those countries. The means of transforming the Final betting odds into Eurovision points was to identify the rankings (as of 3.00pm on 9th May 2014) of the different countries across a range of betting websites. Points were assigned to different rankings based on the average number of points earned by countries finishing in that position in Eurovision Final contests held over the 2004-13 period.

Combining the voting bloc/history patterns with the impact of draw position and the betting odd weightings, the following result would be predicted:

Country Odds Draw History Estimate
Sweden 260 85 175 174
Greece 106 115 167 129
Armenia 156 79 129 121
Ukraine 117 62 165 115
The Netherlands 187 114 40 114
Denmark 111 97 127 112
Azerbaijan 71 65 196 111
Austria 205 92 19 105
Hungary 133 110 52 98
Norway 92 82 113 96
Italy 46 82 159 96
Russia 40 62 182 95
Finland 67 144 57 89
Malta 60 131 69 87
Romania 48 84 85 72
Spain 82 81 39 67
United Kingdom 147 36 18 67
Switzerland 53 113 10 59
Germany 21 81 62 55
Slovenia 17 117 20 52
Iceland 32 44 70 48
Poland 35 62 47 48
San Marino 5 93 37 45
Montenegro 13 69 41 41
France 28 87 6 40
Belarus 13 38 61 37

This does not fully confirm the bookies’ take on the contest, with countries such as Greece, The Ukraine, Denmark and Azerbaijan being pushed up the rankings either due to a good history of strong support at Eurovision from the different voting countries or due to a highly favourable position in the contest running order or indeed a combination of both these factors. As with France in the 2011 analysis, Austria’s strong ranking in the bookie odds does not translate into a higher positioning, but this is mainly due to that country’s poor results in past contests (meaning they score poorly under the voting history aspect). (That said, if Austria was classified as the bookies’ favourite instead of Sweden (as they are, for instance, with Paddy Power at present), the model would then estimate that Austria would finish in third place with 124 points.) It is worth remembering that Finland won in 2006 despite a series of extremely poor Finnish results across the decades prior to that win, so scoring lowly under the voting history factor should not rule out a country’s prospects entirely (especially with the growing influence of the voting juries to balance this factor out). A model such as mine (not withstanding some successes in more recent contests, ahem) would not have been able to predict that Finland win in 2006, so you may be tempted to overlook these figures in favour of Austria if you think a similar phenomenon could be in store in 2014. Any country can win this contest!

It is also worth noting that this model suggests that the first four positions may be filled solely by countries performing in the first half of the contest. Yet, the contest has been won only by countries performing between the No.17 and No.24 positions during the past nine years (with the bulk of these wins falling to countries performing in the four slots between No.17 and No.20). If you think running order will have a greater bearing on the result than is being suggested by this model, then countries such as Denmark, Hungary and The Netherlands may warrant some further closer consideration.

What about the United Kingdom? Well performing last on the night would appear to be a very good draw given that acts performing later in the contest have traditionally done better, but this does not have the same value as performing last in a semi-final had for Jedward in 2011 and 2012 mainly because of the larger number of countries in a final! Only three finals previously have involved as many as 26 countries and the scores/positions attained by the countries performing in these positions has been highly disappointing to say the least:

  • the 2003 contest in Riga – in which the country performing last on the night, Slovenia, finished in the lower placings
  • the 2012 contest in Baku – in which the country performing last on the night, Moldova, finished in a mid-table position
  • the 2013 contest in Malmo – in which the country performing last on the night, Ireland, finished in last place

Statistically the best draw position to get in a Eurovision Final is to perform third from the end, which is the position occupied by one of the favourites, The Netherlands. In terms of actual running order positions, the best slot to get would be the 18th position in the final running order, which is occupied by Finland.

The United Kingdom could also be a victim of the success of the Nordic/Viking bloc in this year’s semi-finals, with Iceland, Sweden, Norway and Finland all making the final (and with Denmark pre-qualified as hosts). This means that the votes from this bloc will be shared out between a significant number of countries and points will be harder to win, especially as this bloc also includes a number of the other contest favourites, but most notably Sweden. These concerns are offset somewhat by a very strong ranking towards the top of the table in terms of the bookies odds, with the combination of these different aspects (voting history, position in running order, bookies odds) leading the model to predict that the United Kingdom will finish in 17th position. If the running order factor does not figure as prominently in 2014 – and it’s worth noting that Ireland was not helped in 2013 by the clustering of most of the pre-contest favourites in the 17-24 running order positions and that this will not be a factor in 2014 – then expect to see a much stronger showing for the United Kingdom act. It’s also worth noting that if the average points level for songs performing last on the night at all Eurovision finals during this period is used (94 points), this would push up the United Kingdom score estimate by some 20 points. The impact of the voting juries might also negate the effect of this poor running order position – something that patently did not happen in 2013. A study of some of the earlier votes from Viking Bloc countries (and, indeed, other Western European countries) will offer a good pointer also as to whether this year’s United Kingdom act can eschew the countries poor voting history and push towards an even better result.

So to conclude, this study offers a prediction as to how the 26 countries in the Final may fare. Due to a lack of a functioning crystal ball, this analysis cannot assess the impact of a vital element of Eurovision success or failure, namely the quality and impact of the performance on the Eurovision stage, whether at the main show on Saturday or at the equally-important Jury Final on Friday night An impactful stage act and strong performance can push previously unfavoured acts into contention, but weak live performances can in turn nix the prospects of contest favourites. This is a very long-winded way of saying that if you decide to bet on the Final results based on this study and you make a few bob, then that’s great and mine’s a TK Red Lemonade (with the fizz taken out – the bubbles go to my head). On the other hand, if your bet goes horribly wrong, then you’ll probably find me in deepest Outer Mongolia… 😮

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