This editorial is written from the opinion of the author and does not represent the views of the other editors, the EBU or escYOUnited as a whole.
Eurovision has its “facts” when it comes to running order; there are death spots and there are places which make people go “ooo, they’ve got the perfect spot”. Surely success doesn’t depend that much on running order, or does it? It’s a sometimes controversial question; especially since 2013 the running order is decided by the producers as opposed to randomly. Are certain songs having an inadvertent advantage through favourable running order placement, or is it all just hearsay and an excuse for why our favourites don’t make it, or why our less beloved songs make it?
The pros and cons of a song’s place in the running order depend basically on two things; absolute position and the songs either side. As my esteemed colleague Calvin Philips has already covered the latter for this year in his excellent article here, I’ll only be looking at absolute position in this article. Of course, saying “absolute position” leaves a fair few angles to be covered! To be clear, not every semi-final has the same number of songs, so a song performing, for example, 16th could be the final song, the second last, just before a commercial break, or just after one! As a result, I’ll be focussing the analysis on the following four areas: Opening songs, closing songs, either side of commercials and absolute position. Also, I’m only looking at semi-finals from 2010 onwards (the era of two semi-finals where both jury and televote points counted towards the qualifiers). A small point to bear in mind before we begin: Over this period there have been 241 songs in semi-finals and 140 have qualified, so the “average” place should have a success rate of 58%.
So we shall begin with the opening songs (by which I mean the first four). Whilst second in the running order is often seen as the unlucky spot, here it is actually third which is the spot of doom! Only 29% of songs have qualified from here, although the general trend for the first few songs is that it’s not a great place to be. Even opening the show gives you only a 50:50 chance of making it. It seems somewhat surprising that going early is actually a disadvantage, but maybe it shows with 18-19 song semi-finals that the ability of the audience to remember the earlier songs is somewhat lacking, and so they suffer from being forgotten by the time voting comes around.
At the opposite end of the show, things are rather different. In fact, closing the show is the best place to be in the semi! Only one song has failed to qualify from that spot (Moje 3 in 2013, and even they came 11th) in the period of interest and over half have been in the semi-final top three. Performing second last is also a good place to be, with almost 80% of songs making it from there. It seems that being one of the last two to perform means you really stick in people’s minds when the voting comes around, so it’s certainly the best spot to get. Going further back, performing third/fourth from the end (not including songs which preceded or followed a commercial) shows that chances begin to fall a little. Third from last has a success rate of 70%, whereas fourth from last has never made it to the final (again, to be clear, this ignores songs which were either side of a commercial).
Before the commercial breaks in the show, well this is an interesting area. Since 2010, we’ve always had one after the fifth song, but the second break has varied a little depending on the total number of songs, but always falling between after 12th and 14th. It’s an interesting picture! Before the first commercial break (5th in the running order) is not a good place to be again; only 43% of songs have made it from there. Having said that, being before the second commercial break (12th/13th/14th in the running order) is a great place to be as almost 80% of entries have made it from there. Oddly, coming after the first break is a good place to be with over 70% of entries making it from there, but only 50% make it straight after the second. The weirdest thing is that, overall, taking both breaks as equal gives a 61% chance of success whether before or after the break! This is basically saying that it makes no difference overall to be either side of a commercial break, although it seems to be best to be either after the first or before the second.
So finally to absolute position; the easiest thing to track! This is always the first thing people look at when deciding whether an entry has been favoured or disadvantaged by the draw and with good reason. As we’ve already seen, coming in the first few entries is quite obviously a disadvantage, whereas closing the show means you’re almost certain to make it! However, there is one problem. The semi-final length varies year on year, so it’s towards the end of the show, the significance of the placing varies. For example, 16th can be the final song, or second last or third last even; and as we’ve seen, this has a large impact on a song’s chances of success. Basically, the later in the show you go, the less relevant the number of songs before you becomes, and the importance of the number of songs following you increases. As a result, the following graphs have been created by taking the first 11 places in running order position, but the final 7/8 are taken counting backwards (so 19th is all the songs which performed last in the semi etc.) This means some songs are counted twice, but it gives a better picture of songs’ chances!
So let’s consider for a moment what this means for this year’s contest! One slight complication this year is that we don’t yet know when the commercial breaks will be. One assumes that the first will be after the fifth song, so good news for our sixth placed songs (Romania and Montenegro), but it’s not looking so good for Belgium and Malta. In the first semi, the second break will probably be after either the 13th song (Iceland) or the 14th song (Czech Republic). Czech Republic is in a great spot in 14th, but if this could be neutered a little if they are following the break. Australia (3rd), Poland (11th) and Cyprus (15th) will all be a little worried about their chances, but Slovenia and Latvia will be happy about closing out the show. In the second semi, the break will either be after Norway or Switzerland. If it’s after Switzerland it’ll be interesting to see if Belarus follows the pattern of songs following the second break (50% chance of making it) or songs five from the end (86% chance). Russia (3rd), San Marino (11th) and Bulgaria may have concerns about their chances, but Estonia and Israel should be more confident. Of course, running order is far from the only factor determining how well a song will do, but it’s interesting to see if the patterns of previous years are repeated this year! If we go on running order chances alone, then we’d expect the following qualifiers:
Semi One: Czech Republic, Finland, Greece, Iceland, Latvia, Montenegro, Slovenia, and three from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Moldova.
Semi Two: Belarus, Estonia, Ireland, Israel, Netherlands, Romania, Switzerland and three from Austria, Croatia, Hungary, Lithuania and Norway.
So I may say “I told you so” if Ireland unexpectedly qualify or if Australia surprisingly miss out: the running order told you so!
Does running order really matter that much, or is it all needlessly over-analysed? What do #YOU think? Share your thoughts with us below or on our forum!
Featured Image credit; Eurovision Ireland