Eurovision 2016 Semi-Final running orders revealed – What does it mean for Ireland?

Adrian Kavanagh, 29th March 2016 – updated 8th April

After some delay, SVT, the Swedish host broadcaster for the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest, finally announced the running order allocations for this year’s two semi-final contests at 7am on Friday 8th April. While the semi-final allocation draw in January did determine which half of the semi-finals the 18 countries in Semi Final 1 and the 19 countries in Semi Final 2 would perform in, the host broadcasters (as has been the case since the last time Sweden hosted the contest in 2013) get to determine the exact position in the running order that each country/act will perform in. (The same rule applies also for Eurovision Finals, although there was a draw this year to determine the position that the hosts, Sweden, would be performing in (and Sweden drew the 9th position in the Final running order).

The running orders are:

Semi Final 1: 1. Finland, 2. Greece, 3. Moldova, 4. Hungary, 5. Croatia, 6. The Netherlands, 7. Armenia, 8. San Marino, 9. Russia, 10. Czech Republic, 11. Cyprus, 12. Austria, 13. Estonia, 14. Azerbaijan, 15. Montenegro, 16. Iceland, 17. Bosnia and Herzegovina, 18. Malta

Semi Final 2: 1. Latvia, 2. Poland, 3. Switzerland, 4. Israel, 5. Belarus, 6. Serbia, 7. Ireland, 8. FYR Macedonia, 9. Lithuania, 10. Australia, 11. Slovenia, 12. Romania, 13. Bulgaria, 14. Denmark, 15. Ukraine, 16. Norway, 17. Georgia, 18. Albania, 19. Belgium

However, with Romania having been disqualified on 22nd April 2016 the Semi Final 2 running order now reads as follows: 1. Latvia, 2. Poland, 3. Switzerland, 4. Israel, 5. Belarus, 6. Serbia, 7. Ireland, 8. FYR Macedonia, 9. Lithuania, 10. Australia, 11. Slovenia, 12. Bulgaria, 13. Denmark, 14. Ukraine, 15. Norway, 16. Georgia, 17. Albania, 18. Belgium

Figure 1: Average points per position in the running order at Eurovision Song Contest semi-finals between 2008 and 2015

While it is claimed that this helps make for a better/more balanced show, there is some controversy associated with this approach given that statistics suggest that certain positions in the Eurovision running order can help/hinder an act’s chances of qualifying out of a semi-final and/or doing well in a Eurovision Final. This is evident from a study of the Eurovision Semi Final voting statistics in Figure 1 above.

Figure 1 suggests that certain positions in the running order are worse to get than others are! For instance, 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. Molly Sterling missed out on last year’s Final after performing second on the night in her semi-final and it could be argued that she would have probably qualified for the Final had she performed later in the running order (especially in the final three slots in the running order.) As it stands, the third position in the running order is the actually the worst position to be allocated in a Eurovision semi-final, as Figure 1 above shows, although the second position in the running order is one of the worst positions to attain, along with 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 and with the second-last position in the running order being the next best position to attain. This does not always apply in the case of Eurovision Finals however, especially since the return of Italy to the contest in 2011 has meant that all Finals now include (at least!) 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. That being said, Italy went on to win the televote despite performing last on the night in last year’s 27-country Eurovision Final!

The impact of running order position is 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 occasions when Ireland attained a very early position in the running order (both performing second on the night), the Irish acts (Sinead Mulvey and Black Daisy in 2009 and Molly Sterling in 2015) both missed out on qualifying for the final. 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 2015. (Note: a yellow square denotes qualification, squares in bold pinpoint the last running order positions in individual semi-finals)

As Figure 2 shows, being allocated an early position in a Eurovision semi-final running order does not, of course, necessarily mean that an act/country is certain to miss out on qualifying for a Final, even if they are allocated the dreaded third position in the running order. However, a good number of the qualifiers out of the early positions in the running often tend to be some of the strongest entries in a specific Eurovision/contest favourites, as in the case of Belgium in 2015 (Loic Nottet comfortably qualified for the Final despite getting the 3rd position in the semi-final running order). However, Figure 2 does clearly show that – based on a study of all of the 14 semi-finals that have taken place since 2008 (when the two semi-final system was introduced) – acts/countries that attain very late positions in the semi-final running order have, statistically, had a better qualification rate than those with earlier positions in the contest running order. Indeed, getting very late positions in the semi-final running order have helped acts with outside/50-50 chances of qualification to make the Final, as in the cases of Cyprus and Poland in last year’s Semi Final 2 running-order. Most of the acts/countries that have performed in the second-last or last positions in the semi-final running orders have gone on to qualify for the final. In the cases both of the second-last and last running order positions, 14 acts/countries (out of 16) have gone on to qualify for Eurovision Finals, amounting to an 88% success rate. By contrast, less than one-third of the acts/countries that have performed in the third/eleventh positions in the semi-final running orders have gone on to qualify for the Final.

Figure 2 shows that, based on the last sixteen semi-finals, the best running order position to attain in the First Half of a Eurovision semi-final has been the 6th position in the running order, followed by the 7th position in that order. By contrast – as alluded to above – the eleventh position in the running order has been, statistically, the worst position to get in the Second Half semi-final running order over the last eight years.

As it transpires, Ireland will perform in 7th position in the second Eurovision semi final. Statistically, this was the second best running order position Nicky Byrne could have hoped form, after having been drawn to perform in the First Half of the second semi-final. It is well over 40 years since an Irish act last performed in 7th position in a (senior!) Eurovision contest (Final or Semi Final) – Red Hurley (with When) being the last to do so in the 1975 Final.  That being said, only a few months ago Aimee Banks did also perform in 7th position in the Junior Eurovision Final in Sofia. Overall, it is not the worst of results by any means for Nicky Byrne. Coming immediately after the highly rated (but very different!) entry from Serbia will also not hurt, given that – as Figure 2 shows – there has been a tendency to semi-final qualifiers to be clustered together in terms of where they’re located in relation to the contest running order. After Latvia’s Justs performs to open the show, there’s a cluster of ballad-style entries (similar to the trend evidenced in Molly Sterling’s semi-final last year) from 2nd position in the running order up to 5th/6th position. Being the first uptempo act to perform after a run of ballad/lower tempo entries helped Israel’s Nadav Guedj in last year’s second semi-final and it may well also act to give an advantage to Nicky Byrne in the contest to qualify out of what is turning out to be a very competitive semi-final.

But the big winners, in terms of their positions in the semi-final running orders, are undoubtedly Malta (in Semi Final 1) and Belgium (in Semi Final 2), given the level of success associated with performing from last position in Eurovision across past semi final contests, as discussed above. Given that performing second last on the night in a semi final amounts to the next best place in the running order to receive, based on the statistics, then this also amounts to a very good running order position for Bosnia and Herzegovina in Semi Final 1 and for Albania in Semi Final 2. The most unlucky countries, in terms of their running order allocations, were Moldova in Semi Final 1 and Switzerland in Semi Final 2, with both these countries getting the dreaded 3rd position in the semi-final running order. Given the evidence from the statistics noted above, the other countries performing in the run between 2nd and 5th positions in the semi final running orders will also not be happy with their positions, namely Greece, Hungary and Croatia in Semi Final 1 and Poland, Israel and Belarus in Semi Final 2. By contrast, The Netherlands (in Semi Final 1) and Serbia (in Semi Final 2) got the best positions in the running order, statistically, that could have been hoped for by a country drawn to perform in the First Half of the Eurovision semi final. (While Cyprus (Semi Final 1) and Slovenia (Semi Final 2) both got the worst positions in the running order, statistically, that could have been allocated to a country drawn to perform in the Second Half of the Eurovision semi final.) As well as Nicky Byrne in Semi Final 2, Armenia will also be happy to be allocated the 7th position in the Semi Final 1 running order. Based on the statistics, the other countries, drawn in the First Half, who will be happy with their running position allocations will be Russia in Semi Final 1 and Lithuania and Australia in Semi Final 2.  It must be noted that two of the contest favourites, Russia and Australia, were both drawn to perform in the First Half of their respective semi finals and both of these got the latest positions in the running order that they could have hoped for (9 countries in “First Half” of Semi Final 1, but 10 countries in “First Half” of slightly longer Semi Final 2.)

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3 Responses to “Eurovision 2016 Semi-Final running orders revealed – What does it mean for Ireland?”

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

    […] posts from Adrian Kavanagh on the Eurovision Song Contest, sports and other entities! « Eurovision 2016 Semi-Final running orders revealed – What does it mean for Ireland? Making sense of the changes to the Eurovision voting process […]

  2. Eurovison Song Contest 2016: Semi Final 1 Review | Adrian Kavanagh's Blog Says:

    […] on the Bookies odds, but also because it’s been slotted in to perform third on the night, the worst position to get in a semi-final running order based on the statistics for past semi-final …. But I think this is a much better song that it’s being given credit for and I really like […]

  3. Eurovison Song Contest 2016: Semi Final 2 Review | Adrian Kavanagh's Blog Says:

    […] in the running order allocation. Which of course means that you get to perform third on the night, the worst position to get in a semi-final running order based on the statistics for past semi-final …. Poor Rykka! This is not by any means a bad song, but I think it will get lost given its placing in […]

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