Earlier this week, the Maltese broadcaster made the surprising announcement that they would be holding the first NF of the 2015 season, and that it would take place on November 22nd, just one week after the same country invites child singers from across the continent for Junior Eurovision. Then, Macedonia decided that they wanted to be first and announced that Skopje Fest would select their entry on November 13th – before Junior Eurovision. As a result we will have at least two entries selected before the season normally even kicks off. This begs the question; does the timing of a national final even matter?
Most Eurovision fans will be familiar with the constraints of the normal national final season – no earlier than September 1st and culminating sometime in mid-March on a date most convenient for the EBU to collect entries. The rest is pretty much up to each broadcaster and while some long-running selections like Melodifestivalen and Festivali i Kenges have long-running traditional formats, many broadcasters try different tactics each year.
For example, the 2014 season saw Ukraine take the first decision of the season on December 21st 2013, possibly a wise move in hindsight considering the issues the country would face this year. But this was not before a couple of countries decided on artists, including ORF’s decision to send Conchita Wurst in September 2013. A lot of the national finals and selections culminated quite late this year however and we were still waiting for over half of the entries at the beginning of March.
And what was the result? In this writer’s opinion, 2014 was a very high quality year and perhaps the majority of the songs being revealed late may have suggested that broadcasters took more time with their selections. Interestingly, it was this year’s top two countries that took a long time to finalise their entries; The Common Linnets and Conchita Wurst had both been announced before any national finals had taken place but waited until March to release their ultimately successful entries.
Let’s look at this another way. The Albanian selection, Festivali i Kenges, has normally taken place around the Christmas period, which is handy considering the fact the Albanian song tends to be selected as an extended version and needs tweaking before the contest. This choice of selection date allows the broadcaster to make any changes that they need to in time for the March deadline. Conversely, it was Russia who kept the continent waiting with their entry, where “Shine” was eventually announced after an extended deadline. It didn’t seem to have an effect on their result, but the Russian silence even as late as March had many fans worried that their broadcaster had their attention elsewhere.
Across the wider picture, it may not have too much of a bearing on what kind of result a country can expect in May, but it’s an element of the Eurovision process than hasn’t been majorly discussed before. With two countries opting to bring their selections forward even earlier and the particularly noticeable lateness of the selections for 2014 however, it seems that it may be a factor that starts to have an influence. It boils down to two methods, essentially; broadcasters may wish to select something early on with the hope that they can tweak it – or that it is ready as it is – or they may decide to take their time in silence and without pressure in order to find something that really works. It appeared in 2014 that the real success came from the ‘behind the scenes’ selection (Rise Like a Phoenix was the penultimate song revealed) but with broadcasters taking earlier choices for 2015, maybe there will be a reversal of fortunes?