Europe’s live pan-continental pop contest ‘Eurovision’ will be broadcast this Saturday night to an expected audience of +300 million.
SBC gets the bookies low-down in what may be the most interesting TV/novelty market in sports betting. Bookies reveal what makes a great Eurovision contender, how politics and culture can affect the song contest and whether Britain pop’s standing will be the first real casualty of Brexit!
SBC: Why is Italian singer Francesco Gabbani’s “Occidentali’s Karma” the current market favourite? What makes a strong Eurovision contender?
Feilim Mac An Iomaire (Paddy Power Head of PR): Italy’s Occidentali’s Karma by Francesco Gabbani is the bookies favourite for a combination of reasons.
It’s original video has amassed over 110 million views, outlining its popularity. The Pop song has an upbeat tempo making it an easy one to sing along to (if you can speak Italian and even if you can’t you’ll try!)
It has a peaceful message that will resonate to the viewers without being too cheesy. To top it all off it Francesco will be joined on stage by a dancing gorilla which cant be underestimated…It’ll be a tough one to beat!
SBC: How has the new round of voting introduced last year impacted bookmaker’s Eurovision markets? Has this proved to be an effective tool at making the competition fairer and more exciting?
Mirio Mella (Pinnacle, Head of Customer Engagement): Eurovision has always been promoted as an angel of peace and unity across the continent singing hymns of fluffy Euro-pop. Unfortunately, rather than producing an open forum for the appreciation of a wide spectrum of musical cultures, the contest can appear like an exercise in selective back-scratching of country blocks.
The addition, in 2009, of points from the good citizens of Europe via TV-votes – in a 50-50 split alongside the jury panels – was intended to change this.
Unfortunately, this didn’t address the issues around block-voting, but the decision to double the number of points available and announce the TV-vote results in reverse order after all of the jury panel votes in Eurovision 2016 did at least appear to inject some edge-of-the-seat excitement.
There was a marked difference of opinions between juries and TV-voters, which ratcheted the drama of scoring up several octaves. Famous Europeans ‘Australia’ had looked to be in control from the jury vote until viewers swept Ukraine’s Jamala home to victory.
The shifting sands of politics can of course mix things up, Russia’s absence this year a case in point, while any spread on the UK’s points haul in 2017 is likely to be significantly lower as a result of Brexit.
In general, however, the change in voting presentation seems to be progressive and a recognition of the importance of adding excitement to the growing sense of spectacle. This change doesn’t make Eurovision any easier for bookmakers to price, but on the other side of the Euro, there is still potential value for specialist bettors. Pinnacle currently has Italy, represented by Francesco Gabbani, as the very short 1.719* favourite.
SBC: Is the impact of ‘block voting’ overstated within the Eurovision Finals markets, can European political and cultural complexities be overvalued or misplaced for what is simply a Song Contest?
Tim Reynolds (Sun Bets Head of PR ): “I think we probably need to make a distinction between the dodgy Eastern European block voting we’ve seen in the past, and the cultural reasons some countries vote certain ways.
On the latter, it’s completely understandable that some countries have their favourites. Greece and Cyprus are a good example of one little pact that no one really minds- and with just one win between them in the history of Eurovision, a pact that doesn’t really influence the outcome of the competition! Likewise, I think a lot of us Brits know that after Brexit, we’re not exactly Europe’s cup of tea at the moment! The public are swayed by political and culture events, and it’d be naïve to think there isn’t an impact in their voting.
The serious and organised block voting is very different, and hopefully won’t happen again this year. The very possibility that it could happen tells us one thing- Eurovision matters so much more on the continent than it does to us Brits. Eurovision is everything to some of these ex-Soviet and Balkan states… to us, it’s an opportunity for a cheeky little bet and a night in with a Chinese take-away.”
SBC: Former X-Factor contestant Lucie Jones is Brexit Britain’s Eurovision candidate…surely its ‘Null Points’ for UK pop in 2017?
Kate Baylis (Betfair Media Relations Manager): This year’s Eurovision will be a barometer which gauges the level of animosity that the big three continental nations feel towards the UK, and while Germany are favourites at 5/4 to award zip to the UK, the betting suggests that France and Italy may be a little more generous in their allocation of points.’
While Brexit might mean that the other European countries have a bit of ill-feeling towards us, the Irish are usually good for a few votes for the UK – so while Lucie is a 50/1 outsider for the Eurovision crown, we have her at 16/1 for Nul Points overall as we still expect her to pick up some votes.