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Eurovision Song Contest: A 9-Point Explainer

I posted about the ESC in the Friday Fun thread, and then started thinking about it more deeply in the sense of "Can it even be explained?", so I jotted down 9 different aspects of it.

In 2023 there were 37 countries sending an artist or a band performing one song, with the assorted light show and/or pyrotechnics. Apart from the Big Five – France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and UK, which automatically participate – and the last year’s winning country, i.e., the host country, most of the other nations will have to first pass a semifinal, organized on the Tuesday and Thursday of the ESC week, to participate on the Grand Final, which is on Saturday. The results of the semifinals and the Grand Final are decided by a combination of televoting and juries, using a complicated scoring mechanism partly explained below.

ESC has gone on for 67 years now, starting from a contest for a few West European Nations and suddenly exploding in size when the Wall fell, Yugoslavia and Soviet Union crumbled to pieces and suddenly tens of Eastern European nations poured in. It is this Eastern explosion that fully set the stage for how Eurovision evolved, as these nations brought in a lot of new interesting political interrelations and a new sense of showmanship and extravaganza, quickly embraced by the Eurovision community.

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Zero. Eurovision is BIG. Super Bowl live TV audiences are generally 110-115 million. Eurovision has an official audience (based on ratings data from EBU-member countries) of around 140 million and an estimated total live audience including streamers in non-participating countries of 180 million. The biggest annual sporting event for TV watching is the UEFA Champion's League final which runs 200-400 million depending on who is counting and how globally popular the competing teams are.

(For comparison, less-than-annual mega-events like the FIFA world cup final, the Olympic opening and closing ceremonies, and major British royal weddings and funerals probably run around a billion viewers, but it becomes increasingly hard to keep count).