No Luck of the “Draw” for Ireland in Eurovision semi-final running order allocations

Adrian Kavanagh, 23rd March 2014

Having finished “Playing With Numbers”, ORF, the Austrian television producers, who are hosting this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, have today announced the semi-final running order allocations for the two semi-finals in this year’s contest. (As of the past few years, there is no longer a draw to determine positions in the running orders of Eurovision semi-finals and finals – with the exception of one to determine whether acts will perform in the first or second half of a contest  – with the exception of position taken up by the Host country in the Final. Instead, the host television producer decides on the running order, ostensibly to make sure that different types of acts are balanced throughout the running order in order to improvement the entertainment value of the show. This is – I would argue – an overtly large level of power to give to the host producers, given that statistics show that an act’s chances of doing well at Eurovision can be significantly helped/hindered by their position in the show’s running order.)

Figure 1: Average points per position in the running order at Eurovision Song Contest semi-finals between 2008 and 2014

Figure 1: Average points per position in the running order at Eurovision Song Contest semi-finals between 2008 and 2014

Ireland has been allocated the second position in the running order for Semi Final 2, being scheduled to perform just after Lithuania, who open the show, and San Marino, who will perform third on the night. The second position in the running order has been frequently referred to as the “draw of death”, given that no song/act has ever won a Eurovision Final or Semi-Final from this position in the running order and given that this is – statistically – the worst position in the running order to perform from in a Eurovision Final. As it stands, the third position in the running order is the worst position to be allocated in a Eurovision semi-final, as Figure 1 above shows, but the second position in the running order is the next worst position to attain, just ahead of the eight position in the running order. In any case, getting a later position in the semi-final running order significantly increases the potential of a song/act to do well, with the last position in the running order being statistically the best position to perform at in a Eurovision semi-final, with the second-last position in the running order being the next best position to attain. (Note that this does not apply with Eurovision Finals, especially since the return of Italy to the contest in 2011, meaning that all Finals now include 26 songs/acts, leaving acts performing at the end of a very long final at somewhat of a disadvantage, as Ryan Dolan discovered in the 2013 Final.)

This is also obvious if we look at how Irish acts have fared at semi-finals since the two semi-final system was introduced in 2008. Ireland’s best results/most comfortable qualifications have come when Irish acts have drawn/been allocated late positions in the semi-final running order, as with Jedward in 2011 and 2012 and Ryan Dolan in 2013. On the only occasion when Ireland attained a very early position in the running order, the Irish act (Sinead Mulvey and Black Daisy) missed out on qualifying for the final. Indeed, Sinead performed from the same position in the running order that Molly Sterling will be performing from in May. On the three other occasions that Ireland contested semi-finals (in the two semi-final system, as first introduced in 2008) the Irish acts drew/were allocated a position in the middle of the running order. Two of these acts – Dustin the Turkey (2008) and Can-Linn featuring Kasey Smith (2014) were eliminated in their semi-finals, although Niamh Kavanagh did make the final when performing from a similar middle of the running order position at the 2010 semi-final.

Figure 2: Qualification levels by position in the Eurovision semi-final running order between 2008 and 2014. (Note: a yellow square denotes qualification.)

Figure 2: Qualification levels by position in the Eurovision semi-final running order between 2008 and 2014. (Note: a yellow square denotes qualification.)

On a (slightly) more positive note, the second position in the running order compares slightly better when one looks at the level of qualifications from that position in the running order between 2008 and 2014 (covering fourteen different semi-final contests). As Figure 2 shows, 57.1% (8 out of 14 different acts) of the acts that have performed from this draw position at semi-finals between 2008 and 2014 have proven successful in reaching the Eurovision Final. (Although Sweden, performing in second position at the second semi-final in 2008, required the assistance of the back-up juries to make that year’s Final.) Taken in that vein, performing second on the night at a Eurovision semi-final is a somewhat better position to get in the semi-final running order than some other draw positions/running order allocates are, including the 3rd, 11th, 4th, 5th, 9th and 1st positions in the running order. But even allowing for this proviso, the second position in the running order is still not a great draw position/running order allocation to attain, especially when compared with the success rates for acts performed towards the end of the semi-final running orders.

Leaving aside the case of Ireland, who were the other major winners and losers in terms of ORF’s semi-final running order allocation?

Semi Final 1: 1. Moldova, 2. Armenia, 3. Belgium, 4. The Netherlands, 5. Finland, [AD BREAK], 6. Greece, 7. Estonia, 8. FYR Macedonia, 9. Serbia, 10. Hungary, 11. Belarus, 12. Russia, [AD BREAK], 13. Denmark, 14. Albania, 15. Romania, 16. Georgia.

This is a running order that will put serious pressure on the first five acts performing on the night. Moldova, an outsider in terms of bookies odds, will not find that performing first on the night is a great advantage, although this is admittedly a draw position that can favour more uptempo acts such as Moldova’s. The unfavourable draw positions for Belgium (attaining the worst position in the running order in statistical terms) and Finland are offset by the high rankings allocated these acts by critics (Belgium) or the bookies (Finland), while the potential of winning big votes from Armenian diaspora population may offset the negative impact of Armenia’s running order allocation. The other countries who were allocated a position in the first half of the semi-final running order back at the draw in January – Greece, Estonia and FYR Macedonia – will be happy with this running order allocation, although acts that are scheduled to perform direct after an ad break can face problems, with this same rule also applying in the case of Denmark. The big winners in this running order allocation are, of course, Georgia, Romania and Albania. Romania’s prospects of maintaining their 100% qualification record from semi-finals has been greatly assisted by yet another late running order position in a Eurovision semi-final.    

Semi Final 2: 1. Lithuania, 2. Ireland, 3. San Marino, 4. Montenegro, 5. Malta, [AD BREAK], 6. Norway, 7. Portugal, 8. Czech Republic, 9. Israel, 10. Latvia, 11. Azerbaijan, 12. Iceland, [AD BREAK], 13. Sweden, 14. Switzerland, 15. Cyprus, 16. Slovenia, 17. Poland.

There is not doubt that, as with the first semi-final, the acts performing before the first ad break in this semi-final are the biggest losers in terms of the semi-final running order allocation here. Lithuania, although not helped by any means from this running order allocation, will be helped somewhat by the fact that performing first on the night tends to less of a disadvantage for uptempo acts than for low-tempo or ballad acts, but also by the fact that they appear ahead of a run of mainly ballad-style acts that complete the first half of the running order in this semi-final. The Czech Republic’s hopes of debuting at a Eurovision Final in 2015 will be helped somewhat by attaining the best running order position that they could have hope for, given they were earlier drawn to appear in the first half of this semi-final. The big winners in this running order allocation are, of course, Poland, Slovenia and Cyprus. 

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One Response to “No Luck of the “Draw” for Ireland in Eurovision semi-final running order allocations”

  1. Playing With Numbers – Predictions for the 2015 Eurovision Semi Final contests | Adrian Kavanagh's Blog Says:

    […] Blog posts from Adrian Kavanagh on the Eurovision Song Contest, sports and other entities! « No Luck of the “Draw” for Ireland in Eurovision semi-final running order allocation… […]

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