Everyone is excited about the third edition of Eurovision – Australia Decides, however, the question remains around what’s next in store for this national final.
It is no news that Australia’s national final has only had a positive impact on the main Eurovision contest. After all, it has raised the contest’s awareness and visibility among Aussie households. However, the SBS national final is still quite some distance away from the status and recognition that other national finals have. In this piece, Eurovision Fam revisits the recent success of Eurovision – Australia Decides and explores some ideas that could unlock its future scalability.
Eurovision – Australia Decides has had a strong start
Since its debut in 2019, the Aussie national final has not only contributed to their country’s number of Top 10 placings in the Eurovision Song Contest, but also helped expand the number of Aussie Eurovision fans as well as increase their engagement with the community itself.
The first year of Eurovision – Australia Decides saw internationally-known artists such as Sheppard and Courtney Act announce their participation in the new national final, sparking strong interest and curiosity among Australians as well as international Eurovision and Ru Paul’s Drag Race fans. Other established Australian singers such as Kate Miller-Heidke and Tani Doko also took part, helping build enough familiarity and engagement among Aussies.
BUT… it wasn’t until the nail-biting national final that Australians got a real taste of what could be a long-term music celebration for their country, with new artists such as Electric Fields surprising and conquering Aussies hearts and placing second, and Kate Miller-Heidke taking the top spot with her song ‘Zero Gravity’. Kate went on to win her semi-final in the Eurovision Song Contest and brought Australia back to the Top 10 in the grand final in Tel Aviv.
This was the beginning of a new chapter for Australia in Eurovision. There were 298,000 viewers watching Eurovision – Australia Decides in 2019, which is a pretty decent viewer rating for a ESC-specific show debut. As a result, Australian viewership of the Eurovision grand final saw an increase of 54.9% in 2019 vs 2018. This was the fifth largest viewership growth experienced by any Eurovision participating country that year [Source].
Although viewer success of Australia Decides and Kate’s Top 10 finish in Tel Aviv were some of the many positives that the national final brought that year, it was the post-Eurovision momentum that Australia Decides artists experienced that led to higher enthusiasm for the national final. For example, Electric Fields collaboration with KEiiNO – “Would I Lie’ – was everything that the Eurovision fandom in Australia needed once Eurovision season ended. Similarly, Courtney Act’s return to Australian television was also well received, with Courtney Act appearing in Dancing with Stars, Neighbours and One Plus One in the following 2 years. It was the post-Eurovision exposure that validated artists’ efforts when submitting entries to Australia Decides, resulting in more established artists applying for the 2020 edition as well as more new emerging artists throwing their hats in the ring.
2020 – 2021
In 2020, we saw major names and more established artists participate in the national final. Casey Donovan, Vanessa Amorosi, Montaigne, and Jack Vidgen were some Australian sweethearts that competed to represent Australia in Eurovision. Montaigne won that year with ‘Don’t Break Me’ after a very close results night.
Although Montaigne did not get a chance to sing her song at Eurovision that year (due to the ever-annoying coronavirus), Eurovision – Australia Decides still reaped the benefits of a successful second edition. With more well-known artists willing to participate in the national final, viewer ratings of the national final went up in 2020. Numbers of viewers for Australia Decides reached 334,000 that year, a 12% increase on the 2019 edition. Similarly, Australian-wide recognition of its new representative, Montaigne, continued to elevate the role and perception of its national final. Eurovision 2016 runner-up Dami Im announced her enthusiasm and intention of joining Australia Decides for 2021, solidifying the importance of the national final.
Unfortunately, Eurovision 2020 didn’t happen. But Montaigne got to represent Australia in 2021, and although the final placing was not favorable, Montaigne definitely made the most out of the opportunity. Montaigne continued to get significant exposure in 2021 while promoting her new Eurovision song ‘Technicolour’ and she even performed in the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras at the Sydney Cricket Grounds – which is one of the major Australian events of the year.
Low viewer penetration in Australia and opportunity to scale up
Even though Australia’s national final is approaching its third edition (on the back of two successful ones), its scale within Australian population is still quite limited.
As a percentage of total population, the number of viewers for Australia Decides made up only 1.3% of the total Australian population. If we first look at relatively new national finals such as France: C’est vous qui décidez, Australia viewer penetration is sitting way lower. France’s national final viewership was approximately 3.5% of the population in 2021.
The difference is a lot more significant when we compare Australia’s national final viewership to more established national finals in Europe:
Number of viewers as % of population
- Melodifestivalen (2021): 35.5%
- Dansk Melodi Grand Prix (2021): 26.3%
- Norway’s Melodi Grand Prix (2021): 20.1%
- Festival da Cançāo (2021): 6.3%
- Eurovision – Australia Decides (2020): 1.3%
Nevertheless, Australia’s national final is in the best place to expand!
Let’s ignore 2021 ratings for a second. In 2020, Australia’s national final was one of the fastest growing as it saw number of viewers grow by 12%. Very interesting development considering most large-scale national finals were in viewership declines that year. Take Melodifestivalen as an example, in 2020 it saw a decline of viewership of 12%. Similarly, Dansk Melodi Grand Prix and Norway’s Melodi Grand Prix also saw contractions in viewership, declining by 8% and 1% respectively. Of course, in 2021, most viewership figures increased again due to the coronavirus effect, but Australia was already in an upwards trajectory!
Source: tvtonight.com.au / Statista / Kampanje / tvm.gallup.dk / kantaremor.ee / osap.cpm / escportugal.pt / aussievision.net
At this stage, Australia’s national final is still in its infancy, its viewership of 334,000 in 2020 is just slightly higher than Estonia’s Eesti Laul 291,000. However, if Australia Decides were to increase its number of viewers as a percentage of total population from 1.3% to France’s 3.5%, Australia’s national final would reach approximately 900,000 viewers, surpassing Portugal’s Festival da Cançāo and getting closer to Norway’s MGP.
This means that there will be more changes required in the future for number of viewers to continue growing and to increase its viewer penetration in Australia. Ultimately, all Eurovision fans do not want this national final to JUST do well, we want it to thrive and become a staple contest for the Australian music industry. After all, Australia’s repertoire of music competitions is limited to The Voice and Australia’s Got Talent – which mainly focuses on finding new talent rather than further propelling existing and more established talents.
What to expect in future editions of Eurovision – Australia Decides?
For it to become more scalable for the wider Australian viewership, we will need to see some changes in the format and delivery of the national final over the next few years.
Introduction of semi-finals: This is an interesting concept to explore as the national final is becoming more popular and more artists are interested in participating. One of the key benefits of having semi-finals is that audiences can fall in love, follow, and stay engaged with their favourite artists for longer. This would provide more exposure for the artists themselves but also add a layer of excitement as viewers see their favorites make it through the finals or stay in the semis.
Staging upgrades: Aussies love a great stage production, after all they did deliver Kate’s ‘Zero Gravity’ gravity-defying staging. It would be great to see more sophisticated staging support from production to help deliver a lot of these entries in the best possible way, as this can provide a better and more accurate look into how the selected entry will eventually perform at Eurovision. We have started to see some of these cool staging concepts from artists such as Jaguar Jonze in 2020 – but not all entries will always have the same opportunity at this stage.
Winner exposure: We need to continue seeing more promotional support of the winning entry. A good example of how this can be executed is Montaigne’s 2021 performance at the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, which is not only a LGBTQ+ event but it’s an Australian-wide event with large audiences. Making an event like this a more permanent opportunity to promote not only the winner of Australia Decides but also the national final itself – would be a great way of raising the status of this national final in Australia.
Interval acts and international guests: In order to make Australia Decides more accessible for non-Eurovision viewers, nailing the balance of Eurovision and non-Eurovision guests and interval acts will remain crucial. Ultimately, we want all Aussies to be interested and excited to see different artists perform. For example, Delta Goodrem, Kylie Minogue and Tones and I would be a great addition to the interval act list as well as other ANZ figures such as Kiwi Drag Race DownUnder winner Kita Mean.
New national final name: Another potential way of scaling up Australia’s national selection is by changing the name of the actual contest. Although this might have to happen further down the line, it is something worth exploring as it will help the contest become a more inclusive event for both Eurovision and non-Eurovision Australian music enthusiasts. Australians can identify with it long-term and adopt as part of their national pride. Obviously, the essence of the contest should not change, meaning that key aspects such as jury vote and public televotes should remain in place. Similarly, Eurovision alumni guests should also remain a key attractor to the national final.
As it stands, the potential of Eurovision – Australia Decides is huge. But, is there enough scaling-up ambition within Australia’s Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) to make the required changes to the national final’s format in the near future?