For over a decade, Eurovision’s running order for both the Semi-Final One and Semi-Final 2 as well as the Grand Final have been determined by the European Broadcast Union Producers and ultimately approved by the Executive Supervisor and the Chairman of the Reference Group.
In January, Eurovision.tv broadcast the Semi-Final Allocation Draw. The Allocation Draw is where the countries taking part in the Semi Finals are divided into pots based on historic voting patterns, determining if a country will be competing in the first half or second half of a Semi Final. From there the producers put together the exact running order, determining when each country performs.
This however was not always the case. In fact, this method of determining the running order for both Semi’s and the Grand Final has only been around since 2013. In previous years the running order of the show was determined by a random draw.
What is the random draw? This was the process where countries would blindly draw their spot in the running order for the first and second halves of the shows. This method shaped the semi finals in a unique and in some cases chaotic way. For example 2010’s Semi Final 1 which featured back to back ethnic showcases and ballad and after ballad blocks.
The random draw method was abandoned in favor of the current system because according to Jon Ola Sand “Allowing the producers to determine the running order will help to make more exciting television shows and allows each contestant to stand out.”
Would the Eurovision Song Contest benefit from bringing back the random draw?
While the excitement of a random draw is enticing with the prospect of adding back an air of the unexpected and supposed fairness to the song contest, there would be a distinct possibility for a much less diverse and structured show. As it stands now the current running order takes into consideration not only the technical needs of the acts but also does its best to create a unique show and prevents too many of the same acts from performing too close to each other.
The argument can be made that the randomization of picking a country’s spot in the running order makes for a fair method that prevents any perceived biases or favoritism towards any one country. In a randomized process however, it is quite likely that any given half of the show could be bogged down by similar genres or song types.
The current draw method does its best to prevent too many acts of the same type from performing too close to each other and structures each part of the Semi-Final so there’s a distinct feel to each section of the show, although it’s not without its flaws. The Ballad section of 2021’s Semi-Final 2 is a perfect example of this.
With the Semi-Finals just around the corner, the question becomes does the running order matter? The running order has helped highlight many fun and dynamic acts that otherwise could have been lost in the show, it also has notoriously hindered others. 2021’s Semi Final 1 being a prime recent example. Australia was dealt their first non-qualifier, Slovenia was buried between two high powered and high energy acts, and Croatia’s Tik Tok being edged out by a single point. Russia was given a unique spot to bring the energy back up and Israel shined in their spot between two slower songs, proving that in some way the running order does make an impact at the end of the night when the audience picks up their phones to Vote for their favorite acts. In the end we will all be tuning in to Turin, Italy and waiting in anticipation to find out just who will qualify for the Grand Final.