What if…Eurovision 2015 was run with 2016’s scoring system?*

Eurovision has a new voting system this year. Rather than combining telephone and jury votes in each country before awarding points to its ten favourites, each country will award points to both its jury’s favourite ten and its telephone voters’ favourite ten acts. This is good news for those acts who only really appeal to one or other of the jury or public.

Say you were an outrageous act who was the number one favourite of every telephone voter in a country. If that country’s jury thought you ranked somewhere middling, and hence your combined score there placed you 11th best out of 27 acts, you’d score 0 points from them. If that was repeated for every country in the competition, you could score zero overall despite being the favourite of literally every telephone voter in the continent.

Now, them’s the breaks, and part of the skill of the competition is to find something that pleases both public and jury. But – it’s nice to see both rewarded in the cases where publics and juries want different things. So, with twice as many points up for grabs both sets of preferences will now be more fully recognised – while the winners will still be those who manage to hit big on both fronts.

As a warm up for this year, I decided to look at how last year’s competition would have ended up if two sets of points had been awarded – as a full breakdown of jury and telephone voters is available on the Eurovision website**.

2015 points under 2016 voting system

2015 total scores under the 2016 voting system (left axis), with jury points in red and telephone votes in blue. Grey bars show actual points received under old 2015 system (right axis) – where half as many total votes were available.

No change at the top – Sweden would have still won – though with less of the total available points (642 out of a possible 936 – left axis, instead of 365 out of a possible 468 – the grey bar read off the right axis). It’s interesting to see how others’ points break down though, and how the order would have changed.

While Latvia, Norway and Cyprus did better with juries than telephone voters, it’s clear that the opposite is true for Italy, Estonia and Austria. This information was available to us anyway, but it’s worth nothing how this could have affected the overall rankings – Albania (17th) would have hopped up to 11th, while UK (24th) would have slid down to last place. This may not be a big deal in a winner-takes-all contest – but note that Russia and Italy would have switched places in 2nd/3rd position.

This leads me on to the crucial point – the tension and suspense in the way the points are announced. For though national jury scores will be announced in the traditional country-by-country way under the new system, all telephone scores will then be combined and the totals awarded to each country in turn, starting with the smallest – meaning the winner won’t be known until right at the end.

For example, if 2015 had been run under the new scoring system, here’s how the scores would have looked after all the national jury scores had been read out, but before any telephone points were added:

2015 scores under the new voting system, after all jury points have been announced.

2015 scores under the new voting system, after all jury points have been announced.

Could Latvia be huge contenders? What about Estonia, they’ll be lucky to make the top ten, right? Well, let’s add in the telephone totals, one by one, starting with the smallest. Poor old Austria get 0, keeping them on 40 points, and France get a mere 4. We keep adding the scores, lowest to highest, and the table is updated with the new totals. In order of increasing value, we find out the 20th telephone score to be added is…a total of 100 points for Latvia.

2015 points under 2016 system - jury and telephone points up to Latvia

2015 scores under the new voting system, with 20 of 27 telephone vote totals announced.

A huge cry from eastern Europe – Latvia now can’t possibly win! Their combined jury and telephone vote score is even lower than Sweden’s votes for jury alone, despite them having been a strong second in the jury votes! So, will one of the remaining countries score enough from telephone votes to overcome Sweden’s lead? There’s still over 1500 points to award between the 7 remaining countries – it’s still possible!

So, Israel (104 points), Australia (132) and Estonia (144) have their points announced – a surprisingly strong showing from Estonia, but not enough to win. Then Belgium (195), and then, the 25th of 27th countries to have their scores announced is – Sweden!

2015 points under 2016 system - 25 of 27 announced

2015 scores under the new voting system, with 25 of 27 telephone vote totals announced

Sweden did not get the most points from telephone votes – they got 279! So, Russia and Italy have scored even more telephone points, will it be enough to secure victory?*** The final two scores are announced and…no! Sweden have it! But as the favourite of telephone voters around Europe, Italy make a superb jump from sixth to second. Well done!

2015 points under 2016 system - all points

2015 scores under the new voting system, with all jury and telephone points announced.

So, the tension is there until the very end. We still get the joy of every countrycalling in their results – and at theis point they all count as you don’t know how the telephone voting will go. No scores announced by video link get to be brushed aside, no matter when they’re announced. But then, one by one, you drop off the little guys and put the big contenders in a race for the finish.

I’m optimistic this will make it a great – if slightly more drawn out – finale, with tension right until the end. Comparing last year’s results shows it will make a difference, but there’s not a drastic realignment in what Europe sees as the best – just more points up for grabs. You’ll have to try really hard to get nul points now.

A bit of mathematical fun, sure. Now…roll on May!

* one of my more niche blog titles, I’ll admit.

** jury results were unavailable for Montenegro and F. Y. R. Macedonia, so for the sake of simplicity this post works on the basis of their juries voting identically to their telephone voters. Similarly, telephone votes are unavailable for San Marino, so their jury votes were duplicated.

*** in fact, there’s not mathematically enough points, but it’s not far off, and by the time you’ve worked that out I hope they’ll have announced the actual winner.

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