The 64th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest was held last May. It is an even that is growing in number of followers both in Europe and globally in a way that it hasn’t in many years. The festival is created and promoted by the EBU (European Broadcasting Union), which represents the leading public media outlets in Europe. In fact, the “Big Five” are the countries with the strongest public radio and television networks in Europe (RTVE, RAI, ZDF and ARD, France TV and, of course the BBC), which, in turn, pay for a large part of the cost of the event, along with the host country. The power of the organizing institution isn’t enough to explain the event’s new golden age, as it is growing in number of TV viewers each year, reaching over 200 million globally.
This event is also once again viewed as a quality contest, which it had lost to a certain extent years ago, attracting an audience that had disconnected from Eurovision decades ago. The contest is a festival of continental music, but also a point of connection for all Europeans; there is no distinction of race, ethnicity, country gender, age or sexual orientation.
Eurovision shares the principles and foundations that built the European Union, and each year it is a televised reminder of what it was meant to be, where fraternity and comradery among the member nations and their representatives goes beyond winning the gala or not (never losing). It is also a showcase and unbeatable advertising both for the host country and for showing the most cutting-edge technology, as well, of course, as the international launch of the artistic careers of some singers and composers. A cocktail is mixed with all the ingredients to give the contest the importance it has. The Eurovision phenomenon has reached Spain as well, and despite finishing poorly in most editions, the number of viewers and followers in other windows has not stopped growing.
This mediatic success of the Eurovision Song Contest, not only on TV (as the television is just one of the windows to the gala) is due to a number of factors, some already mentioned, which are entirely independent of winning or the position of the different representatives. Most of the reasons behind this golden age for the event are due to the following issues:
- Representatives chosen in formats or TV galas with great television impact. Keep in mind that in most of the countries, the selection process for the national representative at the contest is a televised event with very high viewer shares, which has a “tag-along effect” that enables the Eurovision gala to work months later. Examples such as Operación Triunfo, Star Academy, Got Talent, and the Sanremo Music Festival as selection processes are widely watched broadcasts in Spain, France, the United Kingdom and Italy, respectively.
- Successful use of social media. From Facebook to Twitter and on to Instagram, the message and communication style has been adapted in these outlets, which are attractive to the new generations of viewers Y (Millennials, 1981-1995), Z (Centennials, 1996-2010) and T (Tactile, 2010-Present). Each of these generations is immersed in different platforms or social media outlets. The speak different languages, but the Festival has been able to communicate perfectly with all of them, bringing them closer not only to the participants and musical acts, but also connecting them with the most important demands and struggles of each generation. Social media is the new place to gather to comment on the broadcast. Just 10 years ago, the place of choice to do that was in the living room with the family, partner or friends, or at the typically Spanish gathering spot: bars and cafés. Social media has converted the individualism of audiovisual consumption into a phenomenon shared by millions of users internationally, opening the easy chair in the living room to all the strangers connected to a single social network. These are the platforms where the term Eurofan came about, followers of the festival and not of a particular country. In many cases, they are fierce defenders of an artist of a different nationality in each edition, but they enjoy the contest itself, without caring (with some exceptions) who wins, setting them apart from other types of fans who are tied more to a specific artist or a sports fan.
- New technologies and apps. There are two mobile apps that stand out above all others: Spotify and YouTube. The creation of different summary videos, videoclips, performances (for example, all festival performances are uploaded individually to the channel), comments and “Influencers” talking about the festival has reached the Centennials and the Tactile Generation especially. Eurovision is the gateway to the lists of hits and radio formulas throughout Europe. The winner, and often the non-winners, achieve a fruitful international career thanks to their performances and songs at the festival. The composers of these songs are also aware of that, so many choose to create them in the language of Shakespeare. There is a percentage of success related to the song being in English. Spotify is simply an app in which people look for the songs they like and they accept recommendations to a certain extent, but there is one piece of data that must be taken into consideration: the “Eurovision 2019” playlist in this application is one of the most played in the past year. Spotify is also a good indicator of the songs that are favorite to win the award, given that 50% of the votes are cast by the Eurofans through the applications, SMS and toll phone calls, and this musical app reveals the international preferences of the different songs with the number of plays, as well as those that were marked as favorites. For example, in the most recent edition, Sweden and the Netherlands were the favorites both at the betting establishments and according to the specialized professionals. But in the end, with Italy (which was also well positioned), the song was one of the most played on Spotify, and in the end it was the audience who gave the victory to the Italian representative. Spain’s case was similar. The jury awarded almost no points, but the audience, on the other hand, gave Spain a handful of points (which was also foretold in the number of plays on Spotify), which, although it didn’t put us in the leading positions, did keep us from ending last or second to last. It is important to note at this point the different Euro Song Contest apps that provide access to exclusive content, voting (although not free of charge), etc. For example, in Spain, the following official mobile apps were available for download to follow the event: Eurovision Song Contest, Eurovision-rtve.es and eurovisión-spain|ES. These three apps were from the organizer or official co-organizers, and they were used to follow the festival, access all types of content, forums and news, as well as offering the option to vote.
The relationship between social media and the different apps are a link for the new generations, from millennials to tactiles, turning viewers into “prosumers” (Toffler, 1980), generating in turn unprecedented loyalty to this festival. And, in turn, it has managed to de-politicize some of the typical voting that used to occur, so anyone can win, making it an attractive factor for new viewers.