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.

Eurovision by numbers

Last Saturday saw the final of the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest, in which the viewers decided their favourite act was, again, Sweden. For me, though, Eurovision is more than a spectator event. Awarding your own scores at home can be pretty fun too.

So, as my friends the Bentleys invited me once again to their Eurovision party, I got an opportunity to play with the fifth incarnation of my Eurovision spreadsheet. With its help I can tell you that as a group we liked Australia the best, were bored by Hungary, and found Sweden more fun to watch than to listen to.

The spreadsheet makes use of a scoring system proposed by the BBC a few years ago, in which partygoers award marks out of ten to each country in three categories: songcraft, musical performance, and visual performance. Crunching these scores with some lookup functions and pretty conditional formatting, the workbook spits out reports of the best and worst country in each category, the most generous and stingy markers, and ranked total scores.

Eurovision total scores

Total scores awarded to acts by the Bentley party, in order of performance.

There was a clear gap between our top twelve for the night (Australia, Belgium, Sweden, Italy, Lithuania, Israel, Austria, Latvia, United Kingdom, Estonia, Georgia, Russia) and the rest of the pack. Though there was some obvious pro-U.K. bias at our party, we were still disappointed (though not at all surprised) to see it rank so low overall in the real scores, while I was shocked to see hosts Austria earn nil points this year – THEY HAD A FLAMING PIANO ON STAGE FOR GOODNESS SAKE!

Eurovision scores by category

Average scores (out of ten) awarded in each category, sorted by total. You may now judge us.

Splitting our scores by category it’s clear that some countries (Italy, France) provided singers of a much higher calibre than the piece they were there to perform, whilst others (Sweden, Spain) were favoured far more for their visuals, costumes and dancing than their music – in our opinions, at least.

Eurovision’s just a bit of fun, and a chance to shout at the telly with friends, but I won’t pretend I don’t enjoy getting a bit deeper into what our party thought of what went on before us. If you’d like to do similar, you’re welcome to download a copy of my spreadsheet and adapt it to your own needs next time. There’s still the odd bug, but it improves every year – get in touch if you’ve got any ideas for development.

For now, though, congratulations to Sweden. See you next May!

2014 – places I’ve been, things I’ve seen

Countries visited: 6
Currencies used: 2
Flights boarded: 0
Trains taken: God knows

I was quite a busy guy in 2014 – and I’m sure I spent more weekends away from Bristol than in it. Without an efficient app to track these things, I’ll just have to rely on my memory and photos.

There have been plenty of trips around the UK, including fun days and nights in Norwich, Bury St Edmunds and London amongst others. I even managed a couple of trips up north to Leeds – the first of which featured the annual Eurovision gathering. Good friends The Bentleys played great hosts to a night of Eurofun, and the fourth iteration of my ever-improving Eurovision spreadsheet got another outing. It turns out we thought Iceland should have won based on their whole performance, although Denmark had best visual show. Stats are fun.

In wider travels, one four-week period in the summer saw me roadtripping across Europe, visiting the Edinburgh Fringe and camping in Wales. The roadtrip, originally planned as a weekend in Portsmouth, took in five cities over seven days and saw us drive through France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and the Netherlands. This last one was particularly pleasing – despite having driven through the southern tip of the country in 2011, a year when I also changed flights in Amsterdam, I never felt I could say I had been to the Netherlands. Now, having wandered round Maastricht, taken photos and bought lunch there, I can finally tick it off my list. The European countries I’ve visited now form a visually pleasing contiguous group with no holes – if you ignore the pesky principalities.

Map of Europe

Sweden would be a satisfying next step

My trip to Edinburgh I have covered elsewhere, and was very fun. On getting off the train from Edinburgh back in Bristol, we were picked up from the station and headed straight to the Brecon Beacons for a few days of camping and the great outdoors. Scotland, England and Wales within 24 hours – it was mighty tempting to find a flight to Belfast that evening, I tell you! But stay in Wales we did, and it was a jolly lovely trip, made all the more exciting by a fire which completely destroyed the garage of the property in whose fields we were staying. Thankfully nobody was hurt, but it was an eye-opening time as teams of us campers passed buckets of water from a duckpond and threw them over the roaring inferno. I have to admit, I see the burn holes in my hoody as quite the souvenir from the weekend. Huge respect to the fire service and the job they did when they showed up and put the thing properly out.

Earlier in the summer, I also attended my second Glastonbury, serving as a steward again with Oxfam. It’s a great way to do the festival – meeting new people and getting fed, whilst plenty of time remained to take in all the sights and sounds the week had to offer. With a couple of extra days off for events like my graduation – it’s safe to say that by the end of the summer I was both skint and out of annual leave allowance. Still, I’d saved up enough by the autumn to visit a log cabin in Hampshire for a weekend with uni friends – now an annual tradition which includes hot tubs, games, and plenty of food and drink. Long may it continue!

As if the cabin excitement wasn’t enough for November, I also got to visit Manchester to take part in University Challenge! Sadly, my episode won’t be broadcast, as it merely served as a full dress rehearsal for the series of Christmas specials, but it was still huge fun. Real Paxo, real Roger Tilling saying my name, and a real victory of 205-15. We even got to stick around to watch the celebrity shows being recorded. Huge thanks to my team captain Paddy for letting me take part in the day, and introducing me to some great new people!

Of course, on top of all this, there have been plenty of weekends in Bristol – visiting the cinema or theatre, or curled up watching a DVD. Highlight of the filmic year was probably Boyhood – although The Lego Movie and ’71 also both standout in my mind. Interstellar felt like something that would make a good 5-series TV show, but in my opinion tried to fit too many things to suit a single movie. I’ll keep better track of films this year thanks to signing up to Letterboxd  – a good service to check out if you haven’t already. As for TV – I watched all of Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones, and finally finished the last few seasons of How I Met Your Mother. I also bought a new phone which supports the iPlayer and 4OD apps, which has made catching up on things far easier for a guy who spends ten hours a week commuting. Special mention to Grayson Perry: Who Are You? – a great 3-part series released this year, and one that made a couple of days of commuting much more interesting.

I made relatively few trips to the theatre (besides Edinburgh) in 2014, but have made the step of getting involved with the Bristol Improv Theatre, which is great fun. I hope before the year is out I’ll appear on stage doing something creative – though I did pop up doing the occasional talk on stage for Science Showoff in 2014. If you know of live any act you think I should see – whether acting, singing, joking or dancing – please let me know!

So, what for 2015? Perhaps a TV appearance? Perhaps visiting a new country. More Eurovision, more tootling across the UK, and who knows where else? Here’s to the next adventure!