2015 Eurovision Final results estimate: Sweden? Russia? Azerbaijan? Italy? Who Knows?

Adrian Kavanagh, 22nd May 2015

I have used this model to successfully predict the Azerbaijan win at the 2011 contest  and Denmark win in 2013, while this same model correctly identified 17 of the 20 qualifiers from this year’s semi finals. Now that we know the running order for the 2015 Eurovision Final I am going to use this to try and tease out who the likely winners will be of the 2015 contest will be. There are, however, a variety of factors that suggest that the 2015 Final model may not be as accurate as in previous years (and particularly before the new rules on combining jury votes and televotes were introduced at recent contests).

With the numbers crunched, Sweden and Russia – both with relatively good positions in the contest running order, a tendency to do well in terms of “friends and neighbours” and “diaspora” voting and very high rankings in the bookies odds – stand on top of the pile. Azerbaijan, Italy, Australia and Serbia also figure strongly here. But be wary.

  • This model cannot take account of the impact of the actual performances on Final nights (jury show and public show).
  • As the voting history statistics are based mainly on past televoting trends, the model cannot take account for the voting decisions of the highly influential professional juries, who have as much bearing on the result as the televotes have (if not more).
  • There are no voting history statistics for Australia, so there is no real sense here as to how the Australian televote will go, nor is there any real sense as to where Australia is more likely to pick up Eurovision points.

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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 (that can be – sort of – quantified) are the Eurovision betting odds, past voting histories (involving the 27  finalists and the 11 other countries – which lost out in the two semi-finals – that will be voting in this final, with the notable exception of Australia) and position in the running order. Performance quality and the staging of an entry (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) are also vitally important, of course. 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 semi-final performances), this analysis can 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 – a similar relationship had been evident between Turkey and Azerbaijan in some of the more recent contests before Turkey withdrew from Eurovision. 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 what is often referred to as “bloc voting” – but I prefer to use the terms friends and neighbours and diaspora 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 can still give a strong indicator as to the destination of their Eurovision votes in the 2015 Final. (And some juries may reflects the voting patterns of the general populace, also.) 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, Slovenia, Montengro, Spain, Cyprus, Germany and Israel, which have struggled to win Eurovision points at various contests over the past decade and half. It must be noted that the change in the rules for the 2013, 2014 and 2015 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, as also evident in the fact that a low jury ranking from Ireland for Poland at the 2014 meant that country won no points from Ireland at that contest, despite the fact that the Polish act won the Irish televote,

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. (I used the televoting ranks also for the 2014 contests.) 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 Lithuania (with an average points tally of 7.7 from Ireland to Lithuanian acts since the introduction of televoting in 1998). The next highest ranked country, Latvia (6.1 points average), would be predicted to win 10 points from Ireland, followed by the next highest ranked countries, Poland (5.6), which would be predicted to win 8 points from Ireland, and the United Kingdom (5.4), which would be predicted to win 7 points from Ireland, and so on. The predicted points’ destinations for all the other 39 voting countries in the Final are estimated in a similar manner (with the exception of Australia, as that country has no voting history record). These points are then combined to calculate the overall predicted point tallies for the semi-finalists based on past voting histories for these contests.   

Position in the Running Order: 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. This was evident last year, when Austria won the contest from 11th position in the running order and Sweden finished in 3rd place from 13th position in the running order. But, as discussed elsewhere, a good position in the running order 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 2014 was calculated and assigned to the countries selected to perform in those positions at Saturday night’s final. There is one problem here and that is the fact that we have never – up to this year – before had a Final with 27 countries taking part in it. For the purposes of this analysis, the 27th position slot was allocated the same points estimate as the 26th position slot.

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, as is often the case with online surveys/polls). 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, or countries that rank high in the betting odds. This also allows for the identification of highly tipped entries, such as this year’s entry from Australia, 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 6.00am on 22nd May 2015) 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 Order History Estimate
Sweden 284 108 195 192
Russia 205 117 182 165
Azerbaijan 112 124 178 135
Italy 224 61 111 130
Australia 170 76 * 121
Serbia 124 66 164 116
Greece 51 68 190 101
Norway 118 71 108 97
Belgium 141 94 52 94
Armenia 24 85 166 90
Estonia 158 44 63 87
Romania 38 113 110 85
Latvia 98 77 68 79
Georgia 58 92 92 79
Hungary 20 120 87 75
Spain 77 108 40 74
Cyprus 65 111 43 72
Poland 5 133 55 63
Lithuania 35 88 70 63
Albania 43 54 94 63
Israel 72 61 49 60
Slovenia 87 67 24 58
Germany 13 108 48 55
Austria 14 79 76 55
United Kingdom 49 78 14 46
Montenegro 5 77 39 40
France 30 39 2 23

This does not fully confirm the bookies’ take on the contest, with countries such as Serbia, Greece and Armenia, as well as 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 a combination of both these factors.

There are a number of countries’ whose strong ranking in the bookie odds does not translate into a similarly positioning in terms of the overall result estimate, but this is mainly due to poor results in past contests (meaning they score poorly under the voting history aspect) for these countries or due to an unfavourable position in the contest running order. It is worth remembering that Finland won in 2006 despite a series of extremely poor Finnish results across the decades prior to that win with the same trend being evident with Austria and The Netherlands at the 2014 contest. 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 helping to balance the friends and neighbours voting and diaspora voting factors out). A model such as this  (not withstanding some successes in more recent contests, ahem) would not have been able to predict that Finland win in 2006 and was not able to fully predict the strong showing by Austria and The Netherlands in 2014. Ultimately when it boils down to it – any country can win this contest!

It is also worth noting that this model suggests that five of the first eight positions may be filled solely by countries performing in the first half of the contest. Yet, the contest had been won only by countries performing between the No.17 and No.24 positions between 2005 and 2014 (with the bulk of these wins falling to countries performing in the four slots between No.17 and No.20). This dis not prove to be the case in 2014, obviously, when Austria won from 11th position in the contest running order. But if you think the running order will have a greater bearing on the result than is being suggested by this model, then countries such as Azerbaijan, Spain, Hungary and Latvia may warrant some further closer consideration.

What about Italy? 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
  • the 2014 contest in Copenhagen – in which the country performing last on the night, the United Kingdom, finished in 17th place, despite having been among the pre-contest favourites.

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, Russia. 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 Poland.

So to conclude, this study tries to offer a prediction as to how the 27 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

The change in the way that televotes and jury votes are combined to produce a country’s Eurovision points is also another key factor to think about. With 26/27 countries’ rankings to be combined in the Final, a low jury score will seriously limit the impact that a strong result in the televote will have in terms of determining how many Eurovision points, if any, will be awarded to a particular country.  This growing jury influence – in some cases – weakened/limited the impact of friends and neighbours and diaspora voting, even to the point of totally negating these factors in some instances. It has also meant that certain types of jury-friendly songs have been doing better in the contest over the past two years, as the result of the 2014 Final particularly showed. This suggests that certain jury-friendly songs may do significantly better in the actual contest than the estimated result that suggested by the model. France – currently estimated as finishing in last (27th) place in this model – is a very obvious example here, as this is a song that is likely to be ranked highly by the voting juries and hence may perform notably better than the model here suggests.

 

An well-thought out stage act (and it doesn’t have to be gimmicky…) and a strong performance can push previously unfavoured acts into contention, but weak live performances can in turn nix the prospects of contest favourites, as has happened in the past. 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… hey, at least you were warned in advance by me…

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2 Responses to “2015 Eurovision Final results estimate: Sweden? Russia? Azerbaijan? Italy? Who Knows?”

  1. Sunshine or Darkness? – Predictions for the 2016 Eurovision Semi Final contests | Adrian Kavanagh's Blog Says:

    […] to successfully predict the Azerbaijan win at the 2011 contest,  Denmark’s win in 2013 and Sweden’s win in 2015,  I am going to use this to tease out who the likely qualifiers will be now that we know the […]

  2. Dying to Try or Trying to Qualify?: Estimates for the 2017 Eurovision Semi Final contests | Adrian Kavanagh's Blog Says:

    […] model to successfully predict the Azerbaijan win at the 2011 contest, Denmark’s win in 2013 and Sweden’s win in 2015,  as well as to predict that Russia would win the televote at the 2016 contest (but not the jury […]

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