Pot calling kettle: implications of the 2016 allocation pots

In advance of next weeks draw for semi-final allocations–and the spot in the Grand Final for hosts Sweden, whose spot is never produced select for (even more) obvious conflict of interest reasons–we now know the pot allocation for the semi-finallist. Rather than a pan-Contest randomised draw, the process is as follows:

  • The 6 pre-qualified finalists draw which semi-final they must show and will vote in, though Germany’s request to be allocated the second semi-final has been already approved by the reference group.
  • All participating host broadcasters countries are put in one of six (6) pots “based on historical voting patterns as analysed by vote contractor, Digame.
  • Pots usually have 6 members, though one will have 7 this year (see below).
  • Israel has already had its request to participate in the second semi-final, to avoid a conflict with their national memorial day: it will be interesting how they do this exactly.
  • Otherwise each country draws both its semi-final allocation and whether they will perform in the first versus second half of the draw performance order.

Since the producers have determined order of performance, the advantages of a later draw seem to have flattened out a bit. We shall see if this continues in 2016

The pots

Here are the six pots, the titles of which are somewhat tongue-in-cheek:

Pot 1 (Balkan) Pot 4 Pairs plus
Albania Belgium
F.Y.R. Macedonia Cyprus
Montenegro Greece
Slovenia Australia
Croatia The Netherlands
Serbia Bulgaria
Bosnia & Herzegovina
Pot 2 (Scandiplus) Pot 5 Miscellanous
Denmark Czech Republic
Finland Lithuania
Norway Ireland
Iceland Malta
Estonia Poland
Latvia San Marino
Pot 3 Ex-Soviet Pot 6 Holy Roman
Armenia Austria
Azerbaijan Hungary
Belarus Israel (2nd semi)
Georgia Moldova
Russia Romania
Ukraine Switzerland

There’s not much difference in the Balkan bloc: sometimes Switzerland is included with them, though the mixed jury/televote system has diminished the skew towards ex-Yugoslav entries. Albania is here because of sizable minorities in Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia. Slovenia tends to support decent entries from the other ex-Yugos, but the love is often unrequited. Hopefully the €, Schengen and Slavoj Žižek more than make up for it.

Similarly, the Scandi-plus block gets Latvia, since there’s a bit of love between all three of the Baltics, but with Estonia skewing towards this bloc, but the Lithuania Ireland loveup meant Latvia would be either with Estonia or Lithuania. They could have been in the ex-Soviet pod, were it not for overcrowding. In fact, if Ukraine weren’t returning I suspect that’s where Latvia would be this year–in the ex-Soviet pod.

The other pots are a bit arbitrary. Pairs Plus includes perennial vote swappers Greece-Cyprus and sometimes swappers Belgium and Netherlands: with the Flemish broadcaster in charge for 2016, the argument is a bit stronger…except Belgium’s already selected a song in English. Bulgaria and Australia had to go…somewhere.

Miscellaneous pot 5 has some logic to it. The Lithuanian and Polish diaspora in Ireland means one of those two will always get the top televote score on the Emerald Isle (Tiocfaidh Ár Lá!). And there’s been some love between San Marino and Malta (since most Maltese speak Italian, no surprise). The Czech Republic (thanks for coming back, seriously!) had to go somewhere.

Finally, the Holy Roman (OK this was a stretch) pot includes former co-colonialists Austria and Hungary, vote swapping outliers of Romance Europe Romania and Moldova, and outliers Switzerland and Israel. I would have been tempted to put Israel into the ex-Soviet pot and have either Georgia (not a lot of love for Russia) or the Azeris (small Russian community compared to most of the others) in this pot.

The Verdict

There are no massive winners or losers, but there rarely are from the pot allocation. But here’s a few things to watch next week:

There will be four from the Balkan pot in one of the two semi-finals. If the actual ex-Yugos split three in each and Albania is the 4th, that would be a bit better for the rest of the semi-finallists. The worse scenario would be Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Albania in the 18 participant semi-final, which would probably give each of those countries an advantage of 24 points or more compared to the other 14 entries. The last time we had an 18 entry semi-final was 2012, when both semis had 18 entries. The 10th place qualifiers earned 45 or 52 points. The best outcomes? These four entries split across the two semis, along with Bosnia and Croatia. Slovenia would prefer to be in Croatia’s semi, but it won’t make a real difference to their qualification chances: they either qualify easily or miss qualification.

For the ex-Soviet bloc, Russia would prefer to have Ukraine and Belarus in their semi-final, which gives them at least 20 points from the get-go. Russia with Georgia and Azerbaijan would be a bit worse. Putting Armenia and Azerbaijan in the same semi-final will probably reduce both their scores.

The Scandiplus pot can easily skew if Norway, Iceland and Denmark end up in the same semi-final. Or if two of these three do and Sweden votes in that semi-final. If all three and Sweden vote in one semi, we can expect all three countries to qualify. These three countries rarely send weak entries, but if they do, one of them will perhaps stay stuck in the semi-final. Estonia and Finland do support one another, but not blindly and not usually for top marks; regardless, splitting them across the semis would be a bit better for others. Ditto Latvia and Estonia.

We’ll know more after the semi-final allocations. Stay tuned!

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