The Eurovision 2024 Grand Final Running Order Analysis

by 24britishtvMay 10, 2024, 11 p.m. 26
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The running order for the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2024 is as follows:

The creation of this running order was decided by host broadcaster SVT, and is the responsibility to of Contest Producer Christer Björkman, and is thereafter approved by the EBU. This year the running order for the Grand Final was crafted with even more freedom for the host broadcaster team.

This year only six countries could draw a slot that fixed them in the first half , and six others placed a slot in the second half. The other thirteen were given a free choice anywhere in the running order from 2 to 26 – slot number one wasn’t available as host country Sweden randomly drew that position at the Head of Delegation meeting in March.

One of the reasons that there has been increased freedom for the producer to set the running order is so that in theory we have decreased risk of similarly styled songs being played together. Christer Björkman has spoke about the fact that previous editions of the competition have seen a run of ballads back-to-back, something that the team wish to avoid.

There is no such witchcraft this year, and Christer Björkman’s running order shifts speeds throughout the show effortlessly. The start of the show is a great example of this new era of Contest Production, when slick Sweden heads into emotive Ukraine into fiery Germany into girl pop Luxembourg and then crowd-pleasing Netherlands. Yes it has always been like this in the producer era, but now it is easier than ever.

This phenomena to sawtooth your way through the Song Contest becomes even more jarring later on, with Serbia and Portugal, two of the more sentimental, stripped-back, and thought-provoking pieces of the Contest sandwiching Windows95man and his full-on performance of ‘No Rules!’

If I was to look for one run in particular in the Song Contest that may be beneficial, I would argue that luck falls upon Irish eyes this year. The run-in to ‘Doomsday Blue‘ features Lithuania’s roof-raising bop followed by iconic sing-a-long ‘Zorra‘ from Spain before the lads from Estonia work their magic that will have the audience buzzing at the party for more. Bambie is the pinnacle of that run and will have a crowd fully warmed up for their performance.

Christer Björkman has also spoke about how the Producer’s Choice element at his disposal this year helps allow his running order to divide up the favourites far easier across the entire 26 song showcase of a Grand Final.

Now one can interpret that word ‘favourites’ in numerous different ways. No, the team producing the running order does not have data about who won the Semi Finals. However, that isn’t needed to form a basis of which songs are popular. A producer could use press hype, Spotify streams, betting odds or even our good old Audience Poll as perfectly acceptable proxies for working out a bunch of songs that would be deemed favourites are.

I’m going to critique the running order and say that any distribution of favourites is not even. Instead it feels like a Eurovision Song Contest where the competitive focus is early, with a bunch of attention-drawing songs from Ukraine, Netherlands and Ireland in the first ten entries, whereas Switzerland, Croatia and France all snuggle in nested from positions 21 to 25.

Italy appears to stand alone as the sole favourite from the middle section, drawn 15. And perhaps if I smudge that definition somewhat I could argue Olly Alexander’s big name and big production appeal contribute here to the United Kingdom being given their latest possible slot in 13.

Ukraine, winners of the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest, and one of those nations that all season has been speculated as a winner candidate with the song ‘Teresa & Maria‘, have been given slot number two.

This is a bold, headline worthy choice. The stigma that second in the running order has within the Song Contest is enormous. That stigma is justified as this slot has never produced a winner and is statistically shown to be a negative drag on your performance. Since 2013 and the year when running orders at the Song Contest were for the first time decided by a producer, no producer has dared place anything anywhere near close to Ukraine’s favourite status this year in this dreaded slot.

There are rational reasons why one may choose to do this. Host country Sweden are opening the competition with their slick, radio-friendly track ‘Unforgettable‘. ‘Teresa & Maria’ is a whole different world of sound, with a musical style that transports the Contest half way across the continent in seconds. If you are designing a running order to mix up tempos and genres, this is a prime example of how to mix it up.

However the boldness of doing so as a producer is a step that has never been seen before, and the competitive ramifications of such a decision will not be unknown to Christer Björkman and the SVT team. Since 2002 when Melodifestivalen expanded only one song drawn 2nd in the final has ended up on the podium, Caroline af Ugglas’ track ‘Snälla Snälla‘ which surprised many to become a beloved evergreen of Sweden’s folkfest.

There is also the difference at the Song Contest that it isn’t just an artist that one places there in the running order, it is also a nation and a broadcaster. A draw of 2nd in the running order is the clearest message a producer can give that winning is not the focus for this song, especially when the entire running order from 2nd to 26th was available to play with. Ukraine’s track has been a favourite since it was first announced for Vidbir, but winning Eurovision would re-open the difficult conversations about where and how Ukraine would host, headaches that would be avoided with other options.

Perhaps too it can’t be avoided that Christer Björkman’s relationship with Ukraine is also one of note. In his autobiography he spoke about working as Contest Producer there was “maybe the most frustrating” time in his career, with lots of problems in the way to making a successful Eurovision Song Contest in Kyiv in 2017.

After a COVID-impacted Rotterdam and Turin, a Liverpool co-hosting that was a dream but difficult to get going, and a Malmö edition that has been clouded by factors beyond the Song Contest, is it only human for a producer to use their power to try and make Eurovision 2025 as easy as possible?

Another possible country in winning contention would not make for an easy twelve months for the European Broadcasting Union.

Given the fact that Israel’s participation at the 2024 Eurovision Song Contest has been the talking point in the mainstream press all season, whatever position Israel would be placed in the running order would be one that would be scrutinised. We at ESC Insight argued last month, when the news was announced that the Producer’s Choice for the Grand Final was to be introduced, that actually it doesn’t go far enough and there should be fully open running order freedom for every song.

This nation’s presence in Malmö justifies the opposite argument, one where no individual should ever have such a power. The participation of Israel at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest can not today on May 10th be disassociated with the modern history in Israel, which their entry ‘Hurricane‘ speaks defiantly of, and can’t be disassociated with the thousands of people who protested against Israel’s participation in Malmö before they competed in the Malmö Arena. I wish on no individual the power here to create a running order to balance this situation.

There is also more power in this knowing that Israel moved early on Friday morning to currently occupy second place in the bookmakers odds for winning the entire Eurovision Song Contest. Israel’s placing in the running order isn’t just about flow and narrative, it’s also about the scoreboard.

With this data being in the public domain, it only makes Israel’s selection of 6th more notable. It’s early, in the first quarter of the show, and a space where no winner has come from in 21 years. Furthermore, it’s sandwiched between two tracks very popular with fans in the arena, ‘Europapa‘ and ‘Luktelk‘. From a narrative perspective, my feeling is that this aims to mask Israel’s participation as much as possible so as not to distract from the other 25 competing acts and give them as much opportunity to do as well as possible.

Should those numbers be proven to be real for Israel in the televote last night, and should Israel replicate that on Saturday night, then Eden Golan could make history both in the Eurovision Song Contest and within the geopolitics of the day. I consider this running order position as one that attempts to diffuse the tension and the memory of one of this year’s most divisive tracks, which may in turn neuter ever so slightly public support for the Israeli entry.

What do Switzerland, Croatia and France all have in common at this year’s Song Contest? In a world where many may think twice about hosting Eurovision and all the headaches that come alongside it, their broadcasters have all openly said that they would be prepared and would be ready for hosting. Croatia’s Arena Zagreb has already been booked out for the required weeks in May, and Switzerland has already begun preliminary research with Geneva’s Mayor stating the city would be “delighted to host an event such as Eurovision.”

The French broadcaster notably passed on their first refusal to host Junior Eurovision this year, but did host that show in Paris in 2021 and Nice in 2023. However when asked about hosting Junior Eurovision back in November, the response from the French team (ok, perhaps with a touch of bravado) was that they were focused on winning in Malmö with the already selected Slimane.

All three of these nations have been plucked into slots at the end of the running order, giving them the best chance to gain those votes required to take the trophy. In contrast to Ukraine above, these options provide a safety net for the EBU for next year’s Song Contest – places where the arrival of this circus has already been discussed and there are safe pairs of hands ready to take on the challenge.

The noteworthy thing here is that it’s not particularly obvious to say which one of these three has the biggest push. Christer Björkman has did this before, and in 2016 curated a running order that buried hot favourite Russia as much as possible, allowing songs from France, Australia and Ukraine moments of crescendo as the favourites deemed most likely to challenge Sergey Lazarev that year.

Yes, these tracks are late, and they have momentum to do well at the Song Contest. But the question now is if one of them can pick up unified support and challenge for victory, or if they are all too close to each other to have one break away from the pack.

Why This Might Not Matter Anyway

Yes, we have the article to prove that running order bias exists, and it is unavoidable for the Song Contest to feel its impact. However even then we note that the impact of running order is small, much smaller than factors like how mobilised your voting bloc is and the quality of your performance.

It arguably might be even smaller this year. Two new rule changes for the Grand Final mean that the Rest of the World vote will be able to vote before the show starts, as well as during the broadcast, and for viewers in participating countries you will be able to televote from the start of Marcus and Martinus’ opening track.

Yes, we have looked at this before when the Song Contests of 2010 and 2011 allowed voting throughout the broadcast and found there was little statistical evidence of any difference – i.e. later was still slightly better as one would expect.

However the word of caution that I will give is, if a voting window is open for a longer period of time and is open during the performances, that is a scenario that makes it easier for an organised campaign to drive through voting support for their chosen act throughout that larger window of time.

When it was announced that a Producer’s Choice option was being announced this year, Christer Björkman is quoted as saying that it would “make an even more thrilling Grand Final.”

Thrilling it will now definitely be. So much so that the fate of the Song Contest depends on it.

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