At the EBU press conference this evening in Istanbul, the assembled journalists were treated to the world premiere of the tribute to 30 years of ABBA that will be shown as part of the qualifying round entertainment on 12th May. It will not however form part of the official DVD release that comes out in June.
Prior to revealing the short video, the EBU Executive Supervisor Svante Stockselius took to the stage to talk about the forthcoming contest, and to take questions from the journalists.
He jokingly started the conference by saying he had wanted it to start on time (at 18.00)but it was a few minutes late, which is quite good in Turkey. He was delighted to greet everybody, and remarked that we had witnessed the first rehearsal of this new format to the contest.
The Eurovision Song Contest family had become bigger than ever, we now had 36 songs in Istanbul, two night format and over five hours of top quality prime time television. They were all delighted to be Istanbul and the nice atmosphere. He compared it to organising an Olympic Games, where the host city has eight years to prepare for the event, whereas Istanbul had less than a year to organise this contest.
The Olympic Games has it five rings as its branding, now the Eurovision Song Contest has its own branding for the future, a logo with which they are delighted with. It will be the recognisable sign of the contest. There will be further marketing, with the CD already released, and the DVD which will be out in June and should contain both contests, and will be region free. ( Nothing was mentioned about commentaries though). He also announced that both contests will be broadcast livestream on the internet, via the official website.
He also hoped that the trophy, which was unveiled yesterday, will be something that every participant could long for!
The EBU will constantly trying to improve the new format, and to constantly make it better, “if we did nothing…then we would be in trouble! There is lots of competition out there, and we must stay at the top level to remain popular. He would welcome a few more countries into the contest, and singled Italy out for special mention. When later asked about countries bordering Europe and North Africa, he said that as EBU members they would be entitled to enter.
As to this years' format, he confirmed that the ten successful countries from the qualifying round, will be announced in a random order, and following from the first rehearsal wants to see the enveloppes shuffled a bit more, so that no one can accuse the running order of being fixed.
Only the results of 11th to 22nd will be made public. To give everyone an equal status when starting in the final. There will be no spokespersons involved in the qualifying round. Following the final on 15th May the results will be available on the official website.
All countries will use televoting this year, there will be no juries. In order to do this they are using just one provider to coordinate the voting. It will be centralised, and this year to give them time, there will be a ten minute window. It will quite simply be the biggest voting ever!
The spokesperson from the organisation confirmed some of the technical background to the voting. Amongst the key points is that in most countries there will be a maximum of 20 calls allowed from any one subscribed number. It will not be possible to make cross border voting. It will integrated fixed line and SMS voting and will be supervised by independent people from Ernst & Young and Swiss notaries. They were confident they could guarantee technical stability and reliability. They had done successful live tests and made it transparent that there was no direct link to the broadcasters. If it were not integrated then the voting would not have been possible to coordinate within the three to five minute window that they have to operate in.
Inevitably the audience were wondering what plans the EBU had for the 50th contest next year? By coincidence the subject had come up at a meeting of the reference group today, but while wanting to make it special, they also want to get this years' event over with! Certainly the new format is likely to be around for a few years, which they feel will benefit countries like Finland, who recently have been in every second contest. He compared it to the European Football Championships, where everyone can take part.
One item can be confirmed, the order of the voting, which this year is in a sort of alphabetical order will change, otherwise it would make it very dull if it always started with Andorra and concluded with Ukraine.
As to how many people they expect to vote, they have no idea, although they will see how the voting for the qualifying round compares to the final round. The reason for recapping the songs in presentation order was decided because the lines will open as soon as the last song is finished. That song will be fresh in the minds, so to then start the reprise in the reverse order would reinforce that advantage.
Then to the surprise and delight of everyone Svante Stockselius announced that we would now see the world premiere of the short video that will be broadcast in the qualifying round.
It is of course 30 years since ABBA won the contest in Brighton in 1974, and the EBU thought it would be great to mark the anniversary of the most successful artists ever to have won the competition. Much as they would like to have reunited the quartet, that was unfortunately never going to happen. However in communications with the group members they didn't want to rule out doing something. So the world audience will be treated to ABBA – Our last video ever!
It was put together by Radical Media and was shot on a tight schedule, including about six days in total in Stockholm. British actor Rik Mayall has a prominent role, and all four members of ABBA make appearances in the video. There was some script approval by Bjorn Ulvaeus, who also come up with some ideas, as a lot of the dialogue is based on the lyrics from ABBA songs, otherwise the team was given a free hand. It has been given the seal of approval by the group, some of whom saw it as recently as yesterday, and are reported to be “very happy with the result.
There was no doubt in the hall that the media present were also delighted with the video, which will be on sale as a separate DVD, probably in June. It will not however form part of the official DVD to be released of the contests. It would be best to leave viewers to judge and enjoy the final result, so we will not reveal too many details, but there are some clues…
The world premiere of ABBA – Our last ever video will be shown in the qualifying round on 12th May.