What does it take to succeed at the Eurovision Song Contest? That was one of two key topics discussed at the 3rd annual workshop dedicated to the world’s longest running musical TV competition which took place in Berlin on Monday (14 September).
The event, part of the Eurovision Creative Forum, brought together TV producers and executives from 20 EBU Members to delve deeper into the Contest which is celebrating its 60th anniversary.
Welcoming delegates, the Contest’s Executive Supervisor Jon Ola Sand said he was proud of the standard of songs at this year’s event in Vienna:
“The quality of the acts has increased a lot in recent years,” he told the audience. “It’s important for the EBU and the participating broadcasters that we have a high standard of entries. It’s also important for the audience’s perception of the show.”
The discussion “How to get on the left hand side of the scoreboard” looked at the best practice and creative vision involved in doing well at the Eurovision Song Contest.
Leslie Cable from French Belgian Member RTBF said choosing their singer from talent show The Voice has led to huge success for Belgium, with a 12th place for Roberto Bellarosa in 2013 and a 4th position for Loic Nottet in 2015:
“The host of The Voice is also our Eurovision commentator and by tying the shows together and working with big record labels we’ve found a formula that works,” she argued. “Loic Nottet went to Number 1 in 20 countries. And the good results now mean we now have a whole country behind us and the audience say it’s not old fashioned, we’ll come back and watch next year.”
Nicola Caligiore from Italian Member RAI was instrumental in bringing Italy back to the Contest in 2011. The country has had 4 Top Ten placings since their return using songs and artists which have taken part in Italy’s iconic Sanremo Music Festival, which was the inspiration for the Eurovision Song Contest itself back in 1956:
“Sanremo is the biggest music brand in Italy with a 50 percent audience share. There’s a huge hype with 15 million viewers every night,” he said.
“The winning song has partly been chosen by the public so has a mainstream appeal – in a way it’s very suited to a show like the Eurovision Song Contest. We can travel to Eurovision with the support of the Italian public. Every year we’ve taken a bigger artist than the year before. Record companies now see going to Eurovision as a proud place to be.”
The importance of working with record companies was echoed by Tania Friis from Universal Music Denmark who told the workshop that one of the most crucial things for their label is having support from broadcasters:
“Cooperation is very important,” she said. “To get the best artists on board the broadcaster needs to secure a platform for them after the event – to get their next song played on the radio and performed on TV – to help ensure the longevity of the artist.”
Next year’s hosts, Swedish EBU Member SVT, were represented by Producer Christer Björkman who will work with participating broadcasters on the look and feel of the performances in the show. He discussed the long-running 6-week Melodifestivalen format of choosing an entry for the Eurovision Song Contest that’s given his country 7 Top Five placings in the past 13 years, including 2 wins:
“The aim is to get the whole family to sit down together – to create a social phenomenon like Christmas with songs for everybody,” he said. “We pick the best we can find in any given genre from rock to pop to ballads. Good TV is good storytelling – we give the audience a soap opera over 6 weeks. The media gets close to the artists – they get good stories and create a buzz around the event which brings the audience closer.”
“We’ve also used international juries to pick the song we send to Eurovision since 2011 and that’s given us two winners,” Mr Björkman added.
He also discussed how preparations are going for their hosting of the 61st Eurovision Song Contest in May:
“We want to make a statement and take things forward when it comes to the production of the show, “ he told EBU Members. “We have to look at what’s happening in Europe right now and there are enormous challenges when it comes to spending etc. This is a show that unites Europe and we have a responsibility to ensure that everyone can get involved.”
Stefan Tielman from Twitter contributed to a session on “Engaging the Eurovision Song Contest audience across platforms” which focused on how the EBU and participating broadcasters can reach new audiences and build engagement with viewers via social media, apps and second-screen functionality:
“There were 2.3 billion Twitter impressions during this year’s Eurovision Song Contest – that’s a 20 percent year on year increase,” he said.
“There are so many tools now that broadcasters can use to bring artists and the event closer to the audience including Snappy, Periscope and Twitter Q&A. Tools like Twitter Mirror make content more shareable. The synergy that Twitter, being a live real time platform, has with a show like the Eurovision Song Contest is incredible.”
With Australia taking part for the first time this year as part of the Contest's 60th anniversary celebrations, Paul Clarke from EBU Associate Member SBS shared his country’s experience of the event in which their artist, Guy Sebastian, placed 5th:
“We learned it’s the best community of music producers and music audiences in the world and we were really grateful to take part,” he enthused.
“For us, Australia was riding on a wave of growing excitement for Eurovision and we wanted to deliver something authentic so we chose a big artist. If we were ever invited again we’d go for an even bigger one – dream big – the show is so big.”
Regarding social media’s role in promoting the event Paul Clarke added: “We’re in the business of telling stories - Eurovision is a story. Twitter is a wonderful tool for broadcasters– it lets us know what audiences think of our content.”
In conclusion the Eurovision Song Contest's Event Supervisor Sietse Bakker told delegates that "there are definitely ingredients to being successful and it's important that broadcasters are where the audience is."
The workshop was part of the Eurovision Creative Forum which celebrates the best public service media content from around the world.