In a recent interview I did for Star Sports betting, I concluded the interview by predicting that major bookmakers would be in serious trouble within 10 years, and within 15 years the bookmakers we know and love today would mostly be out of business. A heady assertion to make considering I was being interviewed by a bookmaker.
I attributed this to the rise of decentralised betting platforms running smart contracts on blockchain technology. As someone immersed in the world of technology, it's part of my job to keep up to date with where things are heading, I'm confident that the rise of blockchain technology will affect us all in the coming years.
What is the blockchain?
The blockchain could be considered a database of which a full copy is held by all members of the network. This is opposed to the current model of data being siloed in a centralised entity such as the William Hill, Ladbrokes or Facebook server rooms.
If a hacker gains access to William Hill's systems, they can cause signficant damage to their business. With blockchain, because that database (or 'ledger') is distributed to everybody on the network, attacking a single node will have no effect because blockchains work by majority consensus, you'd have to attack 51% of the entire network before your attack was successful which is practically impossible.
Most people's knowledge of blockchain is limited to Bitcoin, while we have methods to send money over the internet with our credit cards, settlement and acknowledgement of those funds is handled by 3rd parties, banks, Paypal, who will update your balance on their systems, send the money to the recipient (and usually take a cut for themselves). However, with Bitcoin and other blockchain technologies both value and settlement are built into the same transaction. If you sent Bitcoin to another address, that transaction is broadcast to all nodes on the network which go on to update their ledgers. The benefit of blockchain is that it is 'trustless', you don't need to rely on any third party and even the money you have is held in a cryptographically secure 'wallet' that no supercomputer could ever break into.
Blockchains can not be shut down by any government - unlike a centralised business which can be shut down or seized, blockchains are as global as the internet itself so regulations are ineffective, furthermore blockchain transactions are (by and large) anonymous so anyone in the world can partake in them wherever they are in the world.
What is a smart contract?
A smart contract is simply a piece of code that exists on the blockchain which is able to move money dependent on specific conditions, anybody can create a smart contract. So for example, I may run a business with 10 employees. My smart contract has how much each employee needs to earn coded in, I send my money to the smart contract and it distributes the funds appropriately.
Smart contracts can become extremely complex, and depending how much information we put on the blockchain, we could one day see a time where a person could purchase a house without lawyers or estate agents. Simply by sending money to a smart contract which in turn ensures you meet all the conditions required to make that purchase and releases those funds to the current owner. Because the blockchain can't be modified and is public, it serves as absolute proof that you are the owner of that house.
In short, a smart contract is something you could send money to, and if condition A is met, it might send the money one way, if condition B is met, it could send the money the other way. It's easy then to see how this could be applied to betting markets.
Isn't this a bit far-fetched?
Not particularly, we have the benefit of being able to look back at other technologies once considered far-fetched and compare them to today, take this clip from a 1994 episode of Tomorrow's World about the internet (or the information superhighway as it was known then). Back then it likely seemed a bit niche and pointless, however when we consider the transformation of the entire world in just 25 years, the way we do business, socialise and even fall in love - not to mention the industries that became obsolete and the industries that arose as a result - no prospect can be completely disregarded. Bookies have once already had to change their business models at the turn of the millenium as the internet took hold and the public demanded online gambling, the bookies who resisted found themselves falling behind.
Furthermore, back in 1994, anyone could have had the idea for Facebook, the limitation though was physical. We didn't have governments laying underground lines for broadband, we didn't have global coordination to lay undersea cables connecting countries to a globalised internet and we didn't have computers and modems fast enough to handle significant bandwidth. Those problems are now gone, the hardest part of the job is completed and it is applications and development in software built on top of the internet that will continue to shape our lives.
So what does this have to do with betting?
The betting industry as it currently stands has numerous issues. They're tied to stringent national regulations, know-your-customer/anti-money laundering laws, tax laws and responsible gambling obligations. For punters, it's often the case that winners are restricted to pennies and liquidity is too low.
Unfortunately for bookies, decentralised betting platforms threaten their businesses. There already exist early-stages of betting platforms run entirely on smart contracts where anybody can create a market, anybody can bet on that market and the settlement of that market is decided by the majority consensus of the members of that blockchain (who are financially incentivised to be honest).
This means that instead of liquidity limited to the UK, you have anybody in the world betting on any market and the huge liquidity that brings. North America has long been held back by laws against sports betting, the casinos in Macau make 2.5x the money of Las Vegas. No national government can realistically track who is doing what on a blockchain. A globalised liquidity pool is a huge game-changer.
Because these decentralised markets are not run by a centralised profit-making enterprise, there are no restrictions and no limits. Commission is low, often around 1% (which is distributed to those who settle the markets, the honest ones get paid, the dishonest ones don't).
This isn't a pipe-dream, early iterations of decentralised betting platforms already exist (feel free to Google). For example, one decentralised betting market for whether or not Justin Trudeau would be re-elected in 2019 ended with a volume of £80,000, compared to Betfair's £16,000 (https://guesser.com/market/55c27d1f). Considering how incredibly niche this still is, it's something bookmakers cannot afford to not have on their radar.
Right now, the biggest barrier to all these markets are purely a lack of mainstream knowledge and very basic website user-interfaces, just as was the case for the internet back in 1994.
I can think of hundreds of reasons why this could be a bad thing...
No one said it was all positive. A system that combines anonymity, money and lack of regulation can create big problems. One way the USA asserts its global dominance is through its control of the financial system, a system which can be circumvented entirely by subversive states utilising blockchain technology to evade international sanctions - there is evidence of this already taking place. Blockchains that incorporate privacy can cryptographically mask where funds have been sent to allow for rampant tax evasion.
In terms of betting, aside from bookies struggling to compete with totally unrestricted, high-liquidity markets, other problems can also arise. Money laundering by nation states such as North Korea can easily take place. Gambling addicts will have nothing protecting them from financial ruin and many other issues.
With the freedom for anyone to create betting markets, we could even imagine a dystopian scenario where 'assassination betting markets' could conceivably be created. Where so many people have a financial interest in an individual being assassinated that that individual finds themselves in real and perpetual danger which only increases the likelihood of it occurring and thus more people betting on it to happen. There's no question that while blockchain has many uses that can make our lives easier and more efficient, as with any new technology, the propensity for evil is ever-present also.
What can existing bookies do to combat this threat?
They're going to have to use their imagination, business models will have to change. Perhaps do as casinos do with heavy-rollers and provide a 'concierge' experience with punters to encourage brand loyalty. Ultimately though, I have very little hope that profit-based companies employing so-many thousands of individuals managing high-commission, low-liquidity markets can really compete with the combined force of anybody and everybody in the world being able to instantly create low-commission, high-liquidity markets.
I believe adoption will at first be slow, the base-layers of the blockchains themselves still need to develop, but when the first presentable and user-friendly interfaces go live, it's my belief that traditional bookies will face a serious existential threat.
TellyStats didn't cover The Circle last year, but we decided to add it to our roster of monitored reality shows this year - and what a good choice that was. After so many years, it's easy to become jaded, cynical and tired of the entire genre of Reality TV, perhaps because of overexposure, producer manipulation or just a decline in quality. The Circle feels like a much-needed shot in the arm.
Last night, to the consternation of many, Paddy Smyth won the 2019 series of The Circle. My view though is that the people expressing dissatisfaction are really missing the point. The Circle is not about ending on the 'right' or 'wrong' winner, it's about a set of tactics mixing together and producing an output, where a slight pivot by a single contestant can have knock-on effects and change everything - adding to the intrigue are the contestant's attempts to keep track and stay on top of all this going on. Anyone who knows how The Circle works would have known that Paddy and Georgina would be the final two contestants standing, despite arguably being minor characters throughout. Far from being a negative, that for me is the beauty of the show. The leading tacticians all blocked each other's path to victory, leaving those along for the ride to reap the rewards that had been inadvertently left out in the open.
The very nature of The Circle cries out for intelligent - even Machiavellian - contestants, the most tactical contestants all seemed to make it to the final stages whereas the Love Island-esque airheads were predictably one-dimensional, not particularly bright, and were quickly picked off. Big Brother's problem was that trashy idiots were surrounded by other trashy idiots, amplifying the trashy idiocy. That contestants are kept in isolation from one another means that idiocy is quarantined, thus making the show far more tolerable to watch.
While we enjoyed The Circle, we want to highlight areas that we think The Circle can improve upon in this article in the hope that Channel 4 producers will read and take note.
Contestants entering The Circle as catfishes place themselves at an immediate and distinct disadvantage without any kind of additional benefit. Catfishes should receive an added cash bonus if they win the public vote or the final Circle rating. Catfishing is a hard act to maintain and is deceptive by definition - that deceit means that they need to work twice as hard to appeal to other contestants, as well as the viewing public whose initial reaction will always be to dislike liars - even when they're entertaining.
The Live Shows:
The live shows often received a negative reaction on Twitter, the reasons are simple and avoidable. Emma Willis is a wonderful presenter but the live shows feel remarkably similar to 'Big Brother's Bit On The Side' in their tone. You have the non-entity 'celeb' guests, the screaming, whooping and hollering audience - you almost expect that tiny 'Big Brother' mic to appear and be shoved into the audience's faces so they can give their worthless (but loud) opinion. It feels tacky.
Attempting to appeal to the lowest common denominator will decrease the longevity of the show and turn people off. I'm perhaps stereotyping a little, but the group of people who love watching Scarlett Moffatt give her opinion are probably not the same group of people who care to watch 3 weeks of contestants sat on the sofa talking to one another. The feel of the live shows compared to the prerecorded shows is jarring, and the audience reaction appears to confirm it.
Tone and Target Audience:
Predictably and unimaginatively, The Circle has targetted itself at millenials. The only reason I can see behind this is that The Circle is an 'app', which is a flimsy reason at best. Older people, even ones that don't use the internet can grasp the concept of appearances vs reality in social situations and the implications and consequences therein. The branding of the show is alienating to the older demographic, even when the show's premise would likely appeal. The Circle also tries a little too hard to be irreverent and quirky to appeal to the yoof, who are probably less likely to watch TV in the first place. Tone down the hysterics of the live shows, focus on the tactics, stop talking to the audience as if they're teenagers.
There is a good reason shows like 'Strictly Come Dancing', 'Great British Bake Off' and anything by David Attenborough are often the highest rated shows on TV - it's because they target quality. Targetting quality will generate an audience, targetting an audience will not generate quality.
I'm certain this will change next year but the earliest start time for The Circle was 10pm, the number of complaints that people have work in the morning would suggest it's not just millenials watching.
Turn Up The Heat:
I'm not usually in favour of 'twists' or producer intervention, but I think The Circle can ramp up the paranoia just a tiny bit. The joy of the show comes in the constant shifting of tactics and the contestants second-guessing their intuition. Work with it and give more opportunities for contestants to manipulate the game in their favour, encourage tactical play. Examples could be: Giving contestants the opportunity to read other contestant's private conversations, allowing contestants to pose as other contestants for a brief while, as well as more 'anonymous' tasks. Too many people coast through by being pleasant to one another - it would have been wonderful if, for example, a contestant were given the opportunity to give the foundations of Tim and Woody's relationship a good, hard shake and see what new dynamics resulted.
Support New Contestants:
In a show where everybody is perpetually unsure and insecure, players will naturally gravitate to what they know. Contestants that enter late face a series of closed doors that resulted in most of them being blocked quickly after entering. Even Paddy, despite his win was always in the mix to leave. Find ways to ensure that newer contestants can integrate themselves quickly.
Ditch The Public Vote:
This is one that will probably be controversial but it may be worth ditching the public's winner. Contestants know that even if they don't play 'the game', they still stand a chance of a big payout simply being being nice and everyone's friend. Commendable, but a bit boring. Tim won the public vote and gave the audience what they wanted, but because he won the smaller sum compared to Paddy, the audience remained unsatisfied - the audience never will be satisfied if the internal rating and public vote result are different contestants - I say, don't even try. Ditch the public vote and it'll encourage contestants to be smart in order to reach that prize money internally within The Circle.
A few points above, but overall the show felt like quality viewing. I hope Channel 4 are able to keep it up by not falling into the obvious pitfalls that so many other shows have succumbed to. I look forward to the next series.
What did you think of our suggestions? Do you have any more? Let us know in the comments section below.
It's back, the usual collection of Britain's misfits have been selected to reach the semifinals. While auditions are edited to ensure the best camera angles and to cut out awkward pauses - it's not a luxury available for the live shows. Those with an actual skill need to ensure their act is slick and has good pace across the allotted time.
Semifinals can throw up surprises as well, it's often the case that the hotly tipped acts absolutely bomb on the night and a completely unforeseen contestant sails through, these tend to be difficult to identify, particularly before seeing the act in question, or indeed the crucial running order. Nevertheless, we'll be updating this article every day of the semifinals, analysing each contestant and how we think they'll get on.
Semi Final 1:
- Akshat Singh (Dancing) - Hahaha! A fat kid is dancing! Look, he's so fat! This is funny! Hahaha. The dancing equivalent of man getting hit by football.
- Brian Gilligan (Singer) - Brian is an established West End singer, he hit the standard dead-relative and "for my kids" tropes early on, which, while sad - don't really have a whole lot of relevance. Obviously as a professional, he'll sing well, I just hope that the audience don't bite.
- Dave & Finn (Dog Act / Magic) - A pre-recorded sob story with a basic magic trick attached. This act will be immune to judges criticism, never underestimate the UK's love for dogs and it's support for public servants. Of the acts in this semifinal, Dave & Finn lead in the social media statistics, easily beating Flakefleet Primary School. We're not sure where the act goes from here after the sob story was revealed but it stands an excellent chance of qualification all the same.
- Flakefleet Primary School (School Choir / Dancing) - The current market leaders, with so many people to get on and off the stage, as well as the mess that the act will create on stage, it's likely that Flakefleet will be performing last in the running order. If not, it'll certainly be before an ad break (that's not saying much, there are ads every 5 minutes on BGT). Flakefleet have a history of self-promotion so it's almost certain to progress.
- The Haunting (Magic) - Elizabeth's act was very cheesy but it did at least create a moment. She also received respectable social media scores. However, no matter how good the trick is, instead of raucous applause, it's likely to receive a stunned silence followed by polite applause. These sorts of acts also tend to be eviscerated and revealed on Twitter too.
- Khronos Girls (Dancing) - Dance troupe that at least understood they needed some kind of unique angle. Unfortunately it's all terribly forced, nothing particularly new to see here.
- Rosie & Adam (Rollerskating) - The only act this evening that requires real technical skill. Their audition was a 'Dancing On Ice' routine on rollerskates. This duo probably deserve to progress but even a slight slip from one of the contestants will throw this act of of the window in the audience's mind.
- Tony Rudd (Impressionist) - Another impressionist who begins each impression with "Hello, I'm ...". Uses household items to create his characters. You'd ask for a refund if he performed at your child's birthday party.
Our Prediction: Flakefleet win. Dave & Finn / Rosie & Adam judges choice.
Semi Final 2:
- 4MG (Magic) - "Boyband of magic". Their audition was 4 different forms of sleight of hand. Like other magicians they speak in a stupid 'mysterious' way throughout their act. They'll need to up their game for the semis, audiences enjoy but don't get excited by card tricks unless you have war veterans or police dogs involved. If they weren't good-looking young men then nobody would care.
- Faith Tucker (Singer) - Initially presented as a bit of a joke, Faith is an established singer with plenty of experience, unlike other acts that simply try to imitate opera. BGT audiences seem to like male operatic singers but have lukewarm reactions to female ones. With the exception of inspirational songs, opera can make the audience feel rather disconnected. But on quality alone, this may qualify.
- Giorgia Borg (Singer) - She may have got a golden buzzer but Twitter reaction to her audition was overwhemlingly negative with many expressing the opinion that the golden buzzer was undeserved. I agree, she sang pretty badly and if she repeats that tonight, she won't stand a chance of progressing.
- Matt Stirling (Magic) - Compared to 4MG, Matt's magic was more entertaining, had some magic as well as a twist - his comedy background also meant he gave Simon a good zinger with the "Shrek?" quip. Matt is an experienced performer, what I've seen on YouTube is pretty rubbish but I imagine he'll bring out some of his better content for the semis.
- Siobhan Phillips (Comedy) - About as funny as a repeated boot to the plums so once again, expect forced laughter. A comparable act could be last year's Robert White, whose humour was far more edgy (Siobhan's audition song was about having kids). Robert's audition went under the radar too though until the semis and he succeeded because he perfectly hit the line between funny and crude, I'm not sure Siobhan will do the same.
- State Of The Fart (Hand-Farting) - This guy has a YouTube channel with dozens of videos of him doing hand farts to various songs. It's actually quite impressive how dedicated he is to something so ridiculous. Unfortunately on the BGT stage he's likely to just look like a random nutter.
- The Queen (Comedy) - In the audition, you'd think by the sycophantic forced laughter that the real queen had told those terrible jokes. Had it not been for the outfit, this act would have been on the chopping block where it belongs.
- Vardanyan Brothers (Gymnastics / Danger) - The act that actually requires skill and dedication. The question is whether or not they have enough content in their act to keep audiences entertained for 3 minutes. Furthermore, neither brother speaks English. Danger is also a dodgy category as people appreciate the risk, but are tense watching it and don't want to go through it again. Knife-throwing suffers the same issue.
Our Prediction: Very hard to predict tonight's as a lot rests on the performances themselves. A good chance for a big-priced winner to come in. Wouldn't recommend betting anything other than in-running. I'll go with Matt Stirling to win. Faith and Vardanyan Brothers judges choice.
Semi Final 3:
- Angels Inc (Magic) - Like magic? Like tits? Good. Their act is actually pretty slick compared to some of the other acts that pass for magic on BGT. However, again, it's nothing we've not seen before (e.g Magus Utopia) and the sexually aggressive dancing hinders rather than helps their chances.
- Chapter 13 (Boyband) - More ex-School Of Rock kids who outgrew their roles trying their hand at BGT. To be fair, their audition wasn't bad though I felt the lead vocal was a bit ropey a times. Ultimately, it's a boyband, I wonder how excited the audience can get about this.
- Colin Thackery (Singing) - A difficult one because it's all about how they stage this, Colin's singing won't set the world on fire but what he represents is a powerful vote-winner. Imagery of the war, veterans appearing at the crescendo, an emotional song - this will stir up the patriot vote. We have Richard Jones as an example of this, but we also have the D Day Darlings as an example where it didn't work. If Colin is just left alone on stage singing a song, it won't do so well. We suspect BGT are aware they need some variety for the final and may push Colin to qualify.
- Gomonov Knife Show (Knife-Throwing) - Watching these sorts of act simply isn't fun, it's stressful. We've already seen multiple knife-throwing acts in the past taking it to all sorts of extremes and they never progress.
- John Archer (Magic) - This is one act I've had my eye on, John has appeared on multiple shows and his tricks blend magic and comedy. I feel he could potentially be funnier than Kojo as well as provide a decent trick. It all depends though as he has some good stuff and some mediocre stuff in his repetoire. BGT may also feel they have enough magic in the final by this point and deramp him.
- KNE (Dancing / Singing) - Nothing to see here. Usual 'street dance' rubbish with a hint of not-great singing thrown in.
- Kojo Anim (Comedy) - A mediocre comedian at best, but when you're fed a diet of bad impressionists and hand-farters, 'mediocre' is like a breath of fresh air. Much of the laughter from Kojo's comedy came from his delivery rather than the jokes themselves. Kojo's audition social media stats did very little in the early timescales but then went parabolic a few hours after, not sure what happened there.
- Rob King (Singing) - One of many solo male singers this year, this one lacks a sob story, no dead/paralysed brother to be found. For that reason alone, he gets an official TellyStats pat on the back. Aside from that, fairly average singer, not much chance of qualification.
Our Prediction: Opposing Chapter 13 for the win can land you some big money and I'll take that chance. I'll go with Colin Thackery to win. Chapter 13 and Kojo judges choice.
Semi Final 4:
- Ben Hart (Magic) - Isn't everyone a little sick of magic now? Ben is yet another magician who speaks in a 'mysterious' way, but to make it worse, his audition featured the world's worst actress as his audience stooge. The thing with the egg was alright though as ever, it just involved slieght of hand at the end. The point is that if Ben's magic is at the same level as his audition, he's in trouble. He's 2/1 in the heat betting, I think he'll drift.
- Duo A&J (Aerial Acrobatics) - I class this act as in the same category as Rosie and Adam, in the sense that it does take skill and dedication - but it just might not be enough to hold the viewer's attention for 3 minutes.
- Graeme Mathews (Magic) - A children's entertainer by profession, Graeme brings his act for children to the BGT stage. I feel he's a less-good John Archer, but this a weaker semi - however one problem we've had this series is magicians doing long, drawn out tricks whereas the nature of Graeme's work is to keep it simple and make people laugh. I don't believe he wins but feel his odds are too big for qualification.
- Iconic (Dancing) - As far as dance groups go, this one actually has a fun twist, it's a weaker Flakefleet basically.
- Jimmy Tamley (Ventriloquism) - Jimmy effectively does an act that America's Got Talent winner Paul Zerdin did better. David Walliams stole the show in the audition though, if Jimmy can hit the same levels in the live show he should still be in with a chance of qualification.
- Kerr James (Singer) - It's a kid, singing. His biggest talent is that he does an amazing impression of a 1l bottle of skimmed milk. Move along.
- Mark McMullan (Singing) - As well as the torture of locked-in syndrome, Mark's brother has to listen to him exploit his situation for sympathy on a talent show. Mark isn't especially talented but I suspect Mark's song will be interspersed with cuts of his brother. My head says that Mark will probably win tonight, but my heart says he's probably worth opposing.
- Ursula Burns (Harp F*cking) - Surely an act only put through so that at least one act will be fully buzzed off by the judges.
Our Prediction: I want to say Graeme wins but I'll not put too much faith in the British public and instead guess that Mark wins tonight. Graeme and Jimmy as judges choice.
Semi Final 5:
- Barbara Nice (Comedy) - Were the audition jokes supposed to be genuinely funny, or funny because they were so bad? I guess if Siobhan Phillips can progress in a weak semi then so can Barbara, particularly as her act is a little more polished.
- Fabulous Sisters (Dancing) - Synconised jerky movements, see it once, see it a million times.
- Gonzo (Tambourine) - Will this be the act the judges finally buzz off? Gonzo has proven not to have anything groundbreaking for new material in other shows, nothing to see here.
- Jacob Jones (Singing) - Apparently, Jacob's biggest talent is proposing to his girlfriend, he's blown his load now and all that's left is a fairly mediocre singer.
- Jonathan Goodwin (Danger) - Jonathan had a strong audition and looking at his bio - he's probably too good for the show. As with many of these dangerous acts, it's through-your-fingers entertainment that is often more stressful than entertaining to watch. Also, whether they're battling fire or water, the majority of these acts are spent watching a person struggle to escape whatever situation they're in and not much else. Jonathan is currently the short-priced favourite to win the semi and despite his skill and talent, I feel he's very opposable.
- Leanne Mya (Singing) - The last of the contestants exploiting a terrible situation through the medium of televised talent contests. Leanne is a Grenfell survivor, her singing is nothing to shout about, however, as with many acts - the act is secondary to the message. If there is imagery of the tower, she's backed up by other survivors, Leanne could progress.
- Libby & Charlie (Dancing) - It's telling that these two weren't originally in the semis until The Brotherhood pulled out. Child dancers, and indeed adult dancers don't tend to do well on BGT, they'll do a nice dance, people will clap, the judges will say it was beautiful, nobody will vote.
- X (Magic) - The audition wasn't bad, using some fairly expensive kit to create the illusions, such as a mentalism chair. With the abundance of magic in the final, X is already at a disadvantage, as well as the mask creating an emotional disconnect from the audience. I forsee an early slot in the running order and an early exit from the show.
Our Prediction: Leanne Mya looks the most likely winner on paper so I'll go with her, Barbara Nice and Jonathan Goodwin as judges choice.
After an exciting and rather surprising Semi 1, we now move onto the second (stronger) semi with the likely Eurovision winner. With regards to rehearsal footage, the official Eurovision channel is really only active on YouTube, so although we would normally want to analyse info from various platforms, we'll have to work with what we have.
Tabled below is a list of all the second semi contestants. It lists the YouTube Views and Likes for both the first and second rehearsals. Whether or not they're in the Top 10 for that particular metric is indicated by a green or red background colour.
|Rehearsal 1: Views||Rehearsal 2: Views||Rehearsal 1: Likes||Rehearsal 2: Likes|
Semi Final 2 Analysis:
7 countries in this semi are in the Top 10 for every metric. Russia, The Netherlands, Sweden, Malta, Azerbaijan, Switzerland and Armenia. 6 countries aren't in the Top 10 for any metric. Lithuania, Austria, Denmark, Moldova, Ireland and Latvia.
- The Netherlands enjoys some of the strongest numbers of the competition. The only others that are in the same ballpark are from Greece, Cyprus and Russia. When you consider that those 3 countries are all diaspora-heavy contenders that normally have highly inflated stats, it stands The Netherlands in very good stead.
- Sweden - I've been surprised at the low stats from both the rehearsals. It's sometimes the case for one stat to be off, but when there are two that seem low (especially when they're both regarding the exact same performance), it does raise questions.
- Norway - As mentioned in the previous article, it's expected that Semi 1 stats would be higher than Semi 2 as expectant fans want to see how their favourites are doing and then are satisfied enough not to need to see the second rehearsal video. Norway was the only country on the list to get a significant boost in numbers from Semi 1 to Semi 2, indicating increased interest. I believe Norway are accessibly and unique enough to qualify.
- Armenia - I found Armenia's staging to be quite aggressive, they're also singing first which is a disadvantage. I think they probably will still qualify but 4x Qualification stats perhaps gives the impression of more confidence than there really is.
- Albania - I'm a fan of the studio version of this song, I thought it was powerful but the staging for this entry really is quite weak. Despite 3 qualification stats, I can't help but feel this one is on knife-edge leaning more towards no-qualify.
- Croatia - Notice how Croatia qualify on Views but not Likes? In case you can't work out why, it's the same reason people slow down to rubberneck at car crashes. They're not qualifying.
- Austria - A lot of people have high hopes for Austria, I never liked the song as I'm not a fan of whisper-singing. However I realise I'm in the minority here and juries may well reward Paenda.
Overall, I think the stats have more-or-less come out where most of us would expect them to be (barring the Russia-diaspora effect). Compared to the previous Semi, I find this one to be much simpler to call, you have a strong number of 4x Qualifying stats and a strong number of 4x Non-Qualifying stats, both can be counted and discounted respectively. Ignoring Croatia, you're then left with North Macedonia, Romania, Albania and Norway in the 'Maybe' pile. As things currently stand, my qualifiers for this semi are: The Netherlands, Russia, Sweden, Azerbaijan, Switzerland, Malta, Norway, Armenia, Romania, North Macedonia - in that order.
Remember, these are only YouTube stats so our options are limited. Our Semi 1 Rehearsal stats article was pretty good (a review of the stats will come after the contest has finished and I'll explain why), the numbers that come in on the semis themselves tend to be much more indicative of the final result. Also don't forget to take jury points into account as the stats here reflect the televote only. The above prediction is based on the stats and my viewing of the rehearsals here in Tel Aviv but as ever, take with a pinch of salt - look at the stats yourself and draw your own conclusions. The vast majority of our bets will be placed in-running.
The semi-finals are finally upon us! I was lucky enough to travel to Tel Aviv to watch the rehearsals in the Press Centre (and occasionally live in the arena). With regards to rehearsal footage, the official Eurovision channel is really only active on YouTube, so although we would normally want to analyse info from various platforms, we'll have to work with what we have.
Tabled below is a list of all the first semi contestants. It lists the YouTube Views and Likes for both the first and second rehearsals. Whether or not they're in the Top 10 for that particular metric is indicated by a green or red background colour.
|Rehearsal 1: Views||Rehearsal 2: Views||Rehearsal 1: Likes||Rehearsal 2: Likes|
Semi Final 1 Analysis:
7 countries in this semi are in the Top 10 for every metric. Cyprus, Greece, Poland, Australia, Belarus, Iceland and Slovenia. 4 countries in this semi aren't in the Top 10 for any metric. Montenegro, Estonia, Czech Republic and San Marino.
- Cyprus and Greece have by far the strongest stats in this semi, beware though, Greece had excellent stats last year and failed to qualify, the diaspora was an absolute factor in the inflation of the statistics. You don't need to be an anthropologist to work out why Cyprus might also have high stats too. This isn't to say that one of these two doesn't win this semi - they probably will, just be careful when taking these numbers into the context of the overall competition.
- Poland - In a similar vein, beware of Poland's diaspora inflating the stats, they too did very well last year only to end up not qualifying. They're in the Top 6 on every measure so even if the stats have been inflated a little, they still stand a solid chance of qualification.
- Australia - I hated Australia's national final performance and wrote a scathing review, however the song has been redone, the heavy beat removed, the end of the song neatened up and wow - it's now one of my favourites. I was in the arena watching this rehearsal live, no question it qualifies.
- Slovenia - Another that I didn't like at first but then found myself coming back to again and again. The simplicity of this entry compared to all others is a USP, the song is hypnotic as ever. It qualifies on all our stats, seems like a solid bet.
- Belarus - Belarus has to be the value pick here, qualifying on every stat. I felt Zena gave remarkably confident rehearsals for a 16-year-old. The song isn't fantastic but she's an unbelievable 3.65 to qualify. Further, it's expected that first rehearsals would garner higher stats compared to the second as expectant fans want to see what the contestant has in store. Belarus was one of only a few countries to significantly buck that trend, their second rehearsal stats are significantly higher than the first, indicating greater support and anticipation.
- Portugal is an enigma for me, the music is terrible, the rehearsals were terrible and yet the stats are strong. Even elsewhere, we monitored other Eurovision posts in the 'Pre-Shows' section of the stats, again Portugal performs well in those. I have to ignore the stats and stick to my convictions on this one and say that this song must just have obsessive fans, surely it doesn't qualify.
- San Marino - Not qualifying on any stats at all. I personally found this song to be fun and accessible but clearly it's being rejected. It'll be decimated by the juries, of course but don't forget, it has the pimp slot. Could it sneak into the final? At 3.6 to qualify it might be worth a nibble.
- Czech Republic - it may come as a surprise to many that it's doing so badly in the stats, particularly when it's 1.27 to qualify on Betfair. The rehearsals simply weren't great, the vocals were off and it doesn't seem to come together.
- Hungary - This is another that everyone in the press room assures me will qualify, mainly on the basis of Joci himself. Nobody is talking about this song. I find it quite featureless and the rehearsal didn't improve much for me. I maintain that Hungary are in danger of not qualifying, 1.16 to qualify is insanity. Should be closer to 1.7.
- Belgium - I wasn't convinced by his rehearsals at all. Eliot looked lost, while the stats have him qualifying on 3/4 of stats types, he's in 10th place for two of them. I can't really see many others who could qualify though...
As things currently stand, my qualifiers for this semi are: Greece, Cyprus, Iceland, Australia, Slovenia, Serbia, Belarus, Poland, Hungary and Belgium - in that order.
Remember, these are only YouTube stats so our options are limited. Come the semi-finals we're going to have ALL stats monitoring, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter Live. We'll get a much more rounded picture of the situation. The above prediction is based on the stats and my viewing of the rehearsals here in Tel Aviv but as ever, take with a pinch of salt - look at the stats yourself and draw your own conclusions. The vast majority of our bets will be placed in-running.